International Rhino Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to the Southern African Wildlife College

Strasburg, VA – The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) announced today a $100,000 grant to the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) to support training and anti-poaching operations to protect rhinos in the wild.

The SAWC provides training to natural resource managers from across Africa. As part of its applied learning approach, the SAWC also directly operates K9 and aerial support units in Kruger National Park in South Africa and surrounding reserves. Kruger is home to the largest concentration of rhinos on the planet and faces intense poaching pressure.

IRF has partnered with the SAWC in the past to provide K9 units and training to game reserve partners. “We have been extremely impressed with their work and K9 units are a valuable asset in protecting rhinos,” said Nina Fascione, IRF’s executive director. “We look forward to expanding our partnership to help protect some of the world’s most important rhino populations.”

SAWC’s accredited K9 Unit trains both rangers and dogs in the disciplines needed to assist in the detection and apprehension of poachers. The college’s K9 unit works with both on lead and free tracking dogs that track poachers on game reserves as well as training to rangers who work with dogs.

“The college’s K9 unit was established to test and monitor the use of dogs across various disciplines in support of countering rhino poaching,” said Theresa Sowry, Chief Executive Officer of the SAWC. “As part of our efforts to test best practice, we started using free tracking dogs as they are able to track at much faster speeds than any human or dog on a lead can. This has proved to be a real game-changer and our K9 unit, led by Dog Master Johan van Straaten, has gone from strength to strength. This is largely as a result of us being able to support live operations and working with different breeds, such as our Texan coon hounds, which were specifically bred for the hunting of raccoons, as well as feral pigs, boars, bears and mountain lions.”

IRF initially provided funding to Big Game Parks in eSwatini for two dogs and ranger training through the SAWC. “A well-trained Rhino dog and its handler are powerful weapons against wildlife crime and are playing an increasingly important role in African rhino anti-poaching efforts,” said Fascione.

The SAWC’s innovative strategy to counter poaching threats include a four-tiered approach which has been developed and tested over the past three years. Through the combination of well-trained field rangers and the addition of free-running canine assets, anti-poaching successes on the ground have increased from 3 – 5 % without a canine asset, to over 60% with the use of both on-leash and free-tracking dogs.

In addition to K9 units, SAWC utilizes aerial support as well as community engagement, addressing surrounding communities’ livelihoods as well as better land use practices to sustain viable ecosystems as part of a cohesive and holistic strategy to protect and steward wildlife populations.

The best practices learned in the field have translated to a broad curriculum that builds skills in conservation and wildlife management. The college also offers courses in nature-based tourism and community-based natural resource management as well as specialized training designed to meet the needs of rangers and other game reserve personnel.

Since its inception, the SAWC has trained more than 18,000 students from 56 countries and 127 wildlife areas. The SAWC is slowly now reopening for student intakes after being closed due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts in South Africa. This has severely hampered operations over the past few months with the College having felt the pandemic’s economic impact. Part of the IRF funding will help pay for salaries of trainers and the staff who run the K9 and aerial support units.

“We are pleased to provide funding at a critical time to proven programs that keep rhinos safe and to help train the future conservation leaders in southern Africa,” said Fascione.


Contact: International Rhino Foundation

Christopher Whitlatch, (+1) 412-979-9742

(USA Telephone Number)


Contact SAWC:

Issued by: The Southern African Wildlife College

Direct Line |+27 (0)15 793 7300 |Fax: +27 (0)15 793 7314

Contact: Jeanné Poultney: Executive Manager: Marketing and Fundraising

Direct Line: +27 (0)11 704 4386 | Mobile +27(0) 82 45 828 45


To make a donation towards the college you can do so here.