Kruger National Park

The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The bond between man and man’s best friend, the canine, is a love story for the ages. While we appreciate our companions and their unwavering love within our homes, the Kruger Park has their own companions and guardians: The Kruger Park “Game Changers”. This elite K-9 Unit specialises in the tracking and apprehension of poachers and smugglers across the Park.

The Kruger National Park is home to a number of threatened species, whose latest predators (poachers) have had an advantage over anti-poaching efforts until the recent introduction of the K-9 unit, often referred to as the ‘game changers’. These canines are bred through existing, and proven, bloodlines to produce dogs that are the most efficient in the war against poaching. Different breeds have been selected for their inherent abilities: Beagles and Labradors are more commonly used to sniff out contraband in vehicles entering and leaving the park; a mixed breed of Bloodhound and Doberman are used as trackers and; the Belgian Shepherds, commonly referred to as Malinois, are trained to apprehend poachers. There are currently 55 dogs operating within the Kruger National Park, with an additional 20 located in national parks throughout South Africa.

Most notably increasing the success of anti-poaching efforts has been that of the tracking hounds. Traditionally, these working dogs had been led on-leash through sections of the Kruger by a handler, searching for scent; this process is slow-going and often poachers manage to escape. Recently, however, the introductions of hound groups have been deployed to manoeuvre off-leash. Dog handlers and rangers follow the dogs from a helicopter, where they can scour the surrounds for danger, while the pack races along a trail. It is remarkable to see these animals move uniformly through the veld on a trail, often shifting positions as lead runners fatigue. Once the team spots a threat the dogs are called off and collected to be safely removed from the scene, while Rangers assist in the arrest of poachers. Two distinct groups of dogs used in free-run chases can be noted: that of the South African Wildlife College and an import of Texan hounds. To date these K-9 Units have been deployed in over 70 chases, leading to the successful arrests of over 140 poachers; an increase of approximately 50% on poaching efforts.

Credit to ©Ravi Gajjar for Rhino Tears, as adapted from Africa Geographic

These canines can certainly be awarded the title of the Kruger Park ‘game changers’, then. While their work is incredible to witness, this job is also extremely high-risk. Not only are these dogs working hard, across large distances and under the African sun, where exhaustion and heat reign supreme; but the threat of dangerous wildlife and fire-power of poachers needs to be taken into consideration, as well. The hounds are trained by the best, but accidents and mishaps can occur at any time. The costs of running a successful operation of this magnitude also add up; dog breeding operations, satellite collars for the dogs, helicopters, training apparatus and a number of other elements require funding.


If you wish to get involved with this proven anti-poaching unit, please click here.

After experiencing the abilities of these hounds, it is no surprise that not only are the Kruger Park ‘game changers’ man’s best friend but the best friend and guardian of South Africa’s heritage: its wildlife.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, Kruger National Park, 0 comments
Skukuza Railway Bridge

Skukuza Railway Bridge

Near Skukuza Camp lies the Skukuza Railway Bridge; an outcrop of metal and stone which forms the bridge for the age-old Selati Train. It stretches across the Sabie river and makes one reminisce about the days when motorists could not travel through the Kruger National Park and the only way to see the wildlife was from the train itself.



The Selati Railway was established more than 100 years ago, in 1892, to connect the town of Komatipoort and the Selati River, as the area showed promise of gold.  The railway expanded 80 kilometres through the Sabie Game Reserve but before completion, the Selati Railway Company dissolved, leaving the 80km track abandoned and unused. This railway line is said to be one of the most expensive railways ever built, as Selati owed near one million Rand to shareholders when the company collapsed. South African Railways later bought the railway in 1912 and completed construction to Tzaneen before initiating a nine-day train tour through the Lowveld. This tour stopped over at the Sabie Bridge for a one night stay and departed early the next day to continue the tour.

In the years following, a number of trains and tours through, what we now know as, the Kruger National Park, created a boom in tourism for the area. With the introduction of the first roads in the nature reserve and due to too many animals being injured and killed because of the trains, the decision was made to halt all locomotive activity. The steam train 3638, also known as “Skukuza”, was donated to the National Parks Board to display and was turned into a unique restaurant in the 1980’s – the Selati Station Grill House.

Photo: Thebe Tourism

This rich historical site is set to be revived over the course of the next two years and will pay tribute to the original Selati Railway Line.

The development will form part of a new tourism campaign for guests to relive the rich history that once formed part of the Kruger National Park.  A stationary train will form the hotel on the Selati Bridge going by the name of Kruger Shalati, while extension plans are afoot to offer guests dining experiences. Plans show that the train hotel will encompass “Afro-chic styled” boutique accommodation with enough space to accommodate approximately 60 guests; 48 on the train itself and 12 in the Bridge House, in close proximity to the train. This unique architectural project will see to create a living experience reminiscent of days gone by offering travellers unique accommodation, as well as a recreational and entertainment area complete with eateries and family-friendly fun.

For now, though, the old railway line lies in anticipation and visitors eager to see the development come to life ponder on the incredible wildlife sightings to be enjoyed from the bridge overlooking the Sabie River.

Posted by WSC_Dev in Kruger National Park, 0 comments