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