K9 ANTI-POACHING UNIT
Here in Hoedspruit, the Southern African Wildlife College is developing canine capabilities in tracking dogs and free-running packs to combat wildlife crime.
They established their K9 unit in 2015 in response to the rising levels of wildlife crime. Rhino poaching in the Greater Kruger in particular called for increased efforts from conservation management teams, which required deploying more Field Rangers with specially trained dogs. Using dogs – both on-leash with handlers and off-leash as free running packs – proved to be a game changer as part of the anti-poaching toolkit and continues to be incredibly effective in helping to combat wildlife crime.
With the support of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, their K9 unit came together. Three rows of specially designed kennels were built to house the dogs safely and securely, while accommodation for their Dog Master, trainer, and handlers also went up on site. The unit has undergone upgrades and maintenance over the years to accommodate evolving security demands as well as the arrival of Texan-born and trained high speed tracking dogs, which were added to the unit in 2018.
The K9 unit was also established with training opportunities in mind. “We want to be able to give our Field Ranger trainees exposure to working with dogs, and to build the operational competency of our dogs and handlers. The more we can train dogs and handlers, the more effectively and efficiently Field Rangers can do their jobs.” Both on-lead and off-leash tracking dogs serve a purpose and statistics show that poacher apprehension grows from under 10% to over 60% when a dog and Ranger team is at play.
Here at Panthera Photo Safaris, we are donating directly to the African Wildlife College dog unit.