In Memory of Popo

This past week has been one of mixed emotions.  On a positive note, we received phenomenal news of the approval of CITES permits, allowing us to continue to with our far-sighted black rhino re-establishment project.  This confirms that there will be some exciting times ahead, moving us closer to our goal of introducing a new satellite population of free-ranging black rhino into the western Serengeti.

This encouraging news was tempered by some devastating news this weekend when one of our four beloved working dogs, Popo, passed away. During a live law enforcement operation over the weekend (where multiple poachers were apprehended) Popo suddenly collapsed while on a live track.  His handlers rushed him to the closest vet unit at Fort Ikoma, where two vets from TANAPA, alongside a team from the Grumeti Fund and many canine experts from afar, worked tirelessly through the night to try and save his life.  While we have yet to receive his autopsy report, it is suspected that he was poisoned.  The team effort that went into trying to save Popo’s life was incredible.

Popo and his handlers at an Observation Post. 

Our partners based in America – Working Dogs for Conservation and the American Society for Canine Trainers – were on the phone the whole evening, connecting us with vets and giving support along the way.  The handlers, vets and members of the Grumeti Fund on the ground stayed by Popo’s side the whole time, doing everything in their power to try and save his life and keep him comfortable.

Popo was a phenomenal dog.  He was loved by everyone, particularly his handlers who are absolutely distraught.  In an effort to find a silver lining, we are reflecting on the enormous success and happiness of Popo’s time here at Grumeti.  Two years ago Popo was destined for a kill shelter in the U.S., but since he came to Tanzania he has been an integral part of the anti-poaching team, working to protect this rich and diverse landscape.  Over this time the handlers, as well as the other dogs, have grown in knowledge, compassion and expertise, forming an unbreakable bond.

We are confident that the team will mourn, learn and bounce back from this stronger than ever.  Thank you to our donors, partners, friends and the canine team who have been such an important part of Popo’s life, the canine unit and the Grumeti Fund as a whole.

Popo at an educational program for local students at the Environmental Education Center.  All photos by Richie Graham.

Rest in peace Popo – you will be missed by all.