Making CONTACT; a five-part mini-series celebrating and profiling anti-poaching K9 Units in South Africa’s nature reserves has been created and launched by Hill’s Pet Nutrition with conservation partners.
The series tells the personal stories of five of the dogs and their handlers – the companionship, perseverance and connection between them and the important link with our natural environment. It also raises awareness of the important protected areas, highlighting the key organisations and dedicated individuals working on the ground together to protect our natural heritage.
“This series tells more than just the story of anti-poaching work, instead bringing to light the human and animal story that environmental challenges arise from, and the important connections that can help provide solutions”, says Zama Ncube of Wildlife ACT’s Community Conservation Programme Manager.
“This heart-warming series not only recognises the amazing role that these dogs play in protecting our natural heritage but also their incredible handlers who, through their commitment to working with the dogs, are making a real difference in the fight against poaching,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, Veterinary Affairs Manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Support from Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Currently, Hill’s Pet Nutrition sponsors over 46 dogs in the K9 Unit in the Kruger National Park, two in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and 14 in other parks around the country.
“There are substantial costs involved with training, feeding and looking after the health of the K9 unit dogs and Hill’s Pet Nutrition has proudly been sponsoring the units with food, equipment and healthcare for the last decade,” says Dr Fyvie.
Johan de Beer, K9 Manager, Kruger National Park of South African National Parks, says that this generous ongoing donation is a great help in training and maintaining these dogs so that they can perform at their very best. “We hope that by highlighting the work these dogs are doing, South Africans will help us to keep paws and boots on the ground and expand our K9 units.”
How Wildlife ACT is involved
As a long term conservation partner of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT has provided support in the establishment and funding of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park K9 Unit. Through this partnership, funds raised through the Making CONTACT campaign and series (in collaboration with Ezemvelo KZN Wildife, SANParks and Project Watchdog) will be directed to the K9 conservation units of both SANParks and Hhluhluwe iMfolozi Park.
“The key to success of any K9 Unit is consistency over the long term, with dedicated handlers and dogs learning and understanding the landscape and the specific working environment of the park. It is great to be able to support the Unit and ensure all the elements of the Park’s strategy are enabled.” said Mark Gerrard, Managing Director of Wildlife ACT.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, situated in KwaZulu-Natal, is often referred to as the ‘birthplace of Rhino’ as it was this area where the Southern White Rhino was saved from the brink of extinction, over half a century ago. Under threat from poaching, the Park must continuously adopt and adapt methods to protect the species and ensure this crucial population is conserved into the future.
The Park is home to the largest population of Rhino outside of the Kruger National Park and is managed by the Provincial Conservation Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi K9 Unit was revamped in 2020, and at present has two handlers and two Doberman/Bloodhounds breeds called Ghost and Gecko. This breed, classified as cold scent dogs, has the ability to follow scents that are up to eight hours old.
“The K9 unit has an incredible success rate and the deterrent factor of having such a unit on site can never be underestimated,” says Dennis Kelly, Makhamisa Section Ranger, Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
“The K9 anti-poaching unit is considered a game changer for South African National Parks,” says De Beer. Since its inception in 2012, the unit in the Kruger National Park has grown from three to 46 dogs. Following great success, the project was extended to other national parks with a total of 60 dogs now working around the country.
“Well-trained dog breeds such as Bloodhound, Belgian Shepherd and Malinois are perfectly suited to track poachers and to detect firearms, ammunition and wildlife products that enter and exit through park gates,” says De Beer.
A short synopsis of the Making CONTACT episodes.
The full series can be viewed by visiting this link:
Episode 1: Ghost Trail – amongst the brutal reality of conservation, caring companions are formed.
Episode 2: Life Line – anti-poaching K9 teams risk their lives every day. The dogs’ heightened senses and body language become invaluable to their handlers. The risks are real, and the outcome is unpredictable.
Episode 3: Together United – the fight against poaching cannot be tackled individually. In order to achieve success anti-poaching units need the help of a team.
Episode 4: S.E.A.M. team – an ongoing silent war within our tranquil oceans is taking place. As humans we tend to create a commodity out of our national heritage.
Episode 5: Disconnect. Reconnect. – to connect with our natural environment is to learn from it, to respect it and to love it.
Together with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, South Africans are being called upon to help keep paws and boots on the ground by donating to the K9 anti-poaching units. Donations can be made here with all proceeds going to the SANParks K9 Unit and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife K9 Units.
“Helping to protect and conserve our planet and wildlife is of global importance for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. The wild areas and their inhabitants is where we go to keep our spirit alive and need to be conserved for generations to come,” says Dr Fyvie.
Images by Casey Pratt of Love Africa Marketing
Series production by Love Africa Marketing