Our Monday Motivation series on GuinnessWorldRecords.com profiles the inspiring stories of commitment, courage and and dedication behind some of our most extraordinary titles. This week we're placing the spotlight on a dog that is leading the fightback from conservationists against the multi-billion dollar illegal poaching industry.
Arrow and his owner Henry Holsthyzen both share a one track mind. Their mission, each day, is to stop the cruelties of poaching in the African landscape.
Over hilly terrain and the dense thicket of the South African bushveld, the man and dog team have worked together as inseparable partners for almost three years.
A typical day involves the pair coming face-to-face with armed criminals intent on slaughtering wildlife for valuable ivory and horns.
On other occasions they're called on to rescue local rangers who are being threatened by illegal hunters.
It's in both these scenarios where dogs like Arrow storm in.
Using their advanced senses and instincts, highly-trained anti-poaching pups trail hunters the same way poachers track targeted endangered species.
“Before the use of dogs in anti-poaching operations, the success rate was extremely low due to the dense nature of the landscape - making tracking extremely difficult,” said Henry, who has spent years training dogs for law enforcement and working in the field for the Paramount Group’s Anti-poaching and K9 Academy.
”Today, almost every anti-poaching unit (APU) in South Africa have dogs assisting them in their daily fight against poaching. The contribution these dogs are making in the field of anti-poaching is phenomenal.”
There is no better example of the incredible skills possessed by canine members of the team than Arrow, a brave German shepherd, who now holds the Guinness World Records title for First skydiving anti-poaching dog.
Arrow's record breaking story began when Henry first approached Kruger National Park, a major wildlife reserve in South Africa, to ask if they had ever considered using dogs to track poachers.
The park was doubtful. With it being home to what is known as the “big five” (leopards, lions, rhinos, buffalos, and elephants), they anticipated any such dog would get distracted by the wildlife.
Henry, who had worked with these dogs for years, believed in their incredible abilities. The park gave him and another dog Ngwenya, a one week trial - and after a few successful arrests, the dogs were mainstreamed as part of regular security.
A few years later, Arrow and his litter would be born and raised by Henry in his house, where their close friendship started.
“Arrow was a handful as puppy, and destroyed my home and vehicle due to his high drive,” recalled Henry, “Training him was a way to focus his energy by giving him a job to perform. He excelled at every job he was given, thus proving that he had what it takes.”
Seeing his potential, Henry trained Arrow to follow the disciplines of an anti-poaching dog: obedience, tracking, protection and detection.
These are all essential skills for anti-poaching dogs for when they are called upon to perform activities such as searching for endangered species-related contraband at ports, completing daily patrols of their assigned area, or apprehending identified poachers.
As Arrow improved, the two continued their journey at Paramount’s Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy, which was established in answer to the growing demand, continent wide, for trained K9 ranger handlers and anti-poaching K9’s.
Rhino poaching has reached epidemic proportions with around 1200 rhinos being killed in 2014 and 2015 across South Africa, while In Africa, the elephant population in the region has fallen by almost a third in recent times, meaning the work of Henry and his teammates has never been more vital.
While the academy’s ultimate goal is to use proficient pups to prevent criminal acts of poaching, their second focus, is achieving this matter within the most rapid time possible.
“In anti-poaching operations, it is always about getting the K9 on the scene as fast as possible. With the African bush being such a vast wilderness, and in some places inaccessible via vehicles, it became clear that alternative methods of insertion needed to be considered such as rappelling from choppers and skydiving from planes.”
This realisation that a groundbreaking new approach was needed for intercepting illegal hunters quietly and quickly gave Arrow the opportunity to accomplish his incredible world record title.
Henry noticed that Arrow enjoyed hanging off the skids of helicopters in a rappel vest when they would fly in a chopper, with the young dog completely unfazed by the height or wind.
Knowing the tremendous bond and trust he had with his right hand dog, and Arrow’s fearless personality, Henry realised this made him an ideal candidate for a role as a skydiving anti-poaching dog.
They both took their maiden plunge together from a daunting 6,000 feet (1,828 meters) on September 17th, 2016 - above the Waterkloof Airforce Base, near Pretoria, South Africa to set the record.
While Arrow isn't the first dog to ever tandem-skydive, he has made history as the first to make such a leap as part of a effort to apprehend poachers by way of a parachute jump.
Arrow isn’t the only dog Henry has trained who has received an award.
A K9 named Killer, received a PDSA Gold Medal from Prince Harry for bravery and devotion and his contribution to the war on poaching.
“From a very young age, I loved the African bushveld and its wildlife. It holds a very special place in my heart and I would like my children and their children to see our animals in their natural environment and not read about them in a book or see them only in a zoo,” Henry explains, reasoning why he continues his line of work.
“It is because of this love of both dogs and the bush that I will continue to fight for the survival of species to ensure future generations to be able to experience the magic of Africa and its animals.”
For now, the pair continue their friendship on and off the field, Arrow sometimes falling asleep in Henry’s arms, Henry chasing Arrow down to make sure he eats his kibble.
Confirmation that the duo had achieved the record last year was an incredibly proud moment for Henry, with Arrow seemingly revelling his new record title holder status.
“Arrow is a super star and celebrity, and trust me, he knows it and loves the attention he gets were ever he goes,” laughs Henry.