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ASSAM STATE, India: It’s 5 a.m. and Officer Zorba is reporting for duty at Kaziranga National Park, the global stronghold of the one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the epicenter of a fierce battle to keep poaching at bay. The breeze riffling through his short, coarse hair, Zorba prepares for training: a brief run followed by tracking drills.
Suddenly, a shoe is thrown at him. In a flash, the Belgian Malinois, part of a K9 squad supported by local NGO Aranyak, takes a sniff and begins to hunt for a decoy poacher hiding behind a tree. Zorba quickly finds him and gives chase until he is pulled up by instructions from his handler, Goura Baidya.
Deployed in Kaziranga in 2011, Zorba was the first dog used for anti-poaching operations in Assam state. His arrival was met with high expectations – expectations conservationists say he has more than met.