This last quarter has demanded a lot from the team. It has included a number of trips to reserves for consulting, training and to provide mentorship, much of which has been made possible with funding from the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance. Part of our aim is to expand our footprint across the African continent. The objective is to reach out to other K9 Units, handlers, and assessing dogs so as to bridge the gap between them and the boots of the ground which are our rangers.
A good example of this is the alliance between Peace Parks Foundation, Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) and Herding 4 Health, in which we saw Johan van Straaten, our K9 unit Dog Master, visiting Zinave in Mozambique as well as multiple reserves in the Eastern Cape as requested by GRAA.
We are also in the final stages of getting one of our training courses accredited with PSIRA (the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority)/SASSETA (the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority), which will also provide an opportunity for us to create further income for the unit.
We have completed 1128 hours of training this year from January to September, seeing 126 hours spent on training in September alone. This has included Detection and Apprehension training. One of the notable highlights is the training of a Belgian Malinois, who is almost ready to be sent home to become operational in Swaziland having showing great potential.
Currently, we have three (3) operational packs in the unit and as such we are in the best position we have been in to date. The pack dogs are able to complete four (4) hour-aged tracks and overnight tracks. While we are not planning to work such old tracks, we are training the hounds on these longer-aged tracks as they present the hounds with extreme challenges and prepare the dog(s) to work in difficult conditions.
We also have two new puppies in training for the ‘pack’ who are 6 months old. Their puppy socialization and initial training is moving along successfully.
Maintenance training (important for all hounds at the kennels) is the most vital component of a successful K9 unit as this is where you ‘sharpen the pencil’ as it were. It is vital that the dogs do not stagnate and are kept stimulated. It is a daily activity, which allows for constant improvement.
Night tracking training is our newest training and this concept has now been proven. We have had multiple successes and arrests, and further testing and fine-tuning is being done so as to offer this form of training in our courses.
Advanced Detection Course – the K9 Unit is working with the Fundraising and Marketing Department to set up a specialist visit from an overseas expert who can advise and train the unit with advanced detection methodologies. We are especially interested in learning how to properly, carefully and within the law, strip a vehicle once a canine has indicated a positive find, for example, to search for narcotics within the body of a vehicle. This would greatly benefit our training offerings should we be able to demonstrate and teach these methods to other handlers and K9 units.
A Garmin course – Garmin are sending a representative to the SAWC in the first week of October 2022, in order to set up timelines for the training we have requested from Garmin. We will also be discussing what repairs can be made to our current collars as well as noting adjustments that could be made to the US donated collars as they operate on a different frequency to that of the South African Garmin collars.
Herding for Health – K9 inclusion – Herding for Health has requested that the K9 unit research and train local Africanis hounds to help protect cattle as well as provide relief from human-wildlife conflicts. This would mean that the dogs protecting cattle would be an early warning system for lions, as an example.
HiP (Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park) Pack Dogs – The ultimate goal of this new project is to breed, train and supply the HiP with a fully-operational set of pack dogs. At present we are awaiting the arrival of a handler from HiP to attend training here at the SAWC. This handler/trainer will be overseeing the K9 unit at the HiP in KwaZulu Natal.