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27 February, 2023

Poaching is a crime. It’s that simple

Royal Malewane

Poaching isn’t just a tragedy for the individual animals that are targeted; it also degrades ecosystems and robs communities of opportunities to make sustainable livelihoods from wildlife tourism.
In an area as large as the Greater Kruger, lawlessness can go undetected – and people from poorer communities may understandably tempted by the opportunity to make a quick buck. To deter poaching and increase the likelihood of perpetrators being brought to justice, the reserve where Royal Malewane is located has established a Counter-Poaching Dog Unit.

Two legs good, four legs better

Better known by their callsign – Tango K9 – this elite unit combines the skills of dedicated rangers with the latest in surveillance and tracking technology. They also have a secret weapon: a team of highly trained and motivated dogs, with an unparalleled ability to follow a trail through the bush. A dog’s nose is one of Nature’s most remarkable creations, and the trailing dogs can follow cold spoor, and back-track to identify where suspects entered the reserve.
Their skills are perfectly complemented by those of the multi-purpose dogs, who provide the tip of the spear. They are fearless when it comes to protecting their handlers, apprehending poachers and searching for contraband.

Man’s best friend

Watching the handlers and dogs work together is a great example of teamwork: two species with completely different skills – one adept at using technology, one simply following their noses. They’re united by unswerving loyalty to each other and to a higher purpose: protecting the wildlife of the reserve where Royal Malewane is located and the Greater Kruger.

Putting the K9 in Tango K9

For security reasons, we can’t profile the rangers in Tango K9, but we thought you might like to meet some of their four-legged colleagues. It’s no secret that dogs are a man’s best friend – they’re also the best friend of the wild animals threatened by illegal hunting, and a poacher’s worst nightmare. Imagine a relentless pursuer, able to faultlessly follow your trail even several hours after you passed by, and incapable of being distracted.

Meet the dogs

Beare is known as the sheriff, and he comes from a proud lineage of poacher catching dogs. Justice earned his nickname – the tornado – for his energy and enthusiasm. His aggression is kept in check until it’s absolutely needed. Murphy is known for her absolute loyalty and her ability to detect items like ivory and rhino horn.

Spots has grown up within Tango K9, and takes dedication to the next level. He’s a smart cookie. Xipoko – the ghost – is a queen of the night – and has a playful nature until things get serious. Duke is also known as Ntwadumela – he who greets with fire. That should give you an idea of the kind of reception that poachers can expect.

Khala is known simply as the nose, because very little escapes her remarkable sense of smell. Her partner in tracking is Storm, another champion sniffer and follower.

Meet the canine heroes and heroines of Tango K9, and shake paws with the members of this elite crime-fighting unit here.

Get involved

Tango K9 is making an active contribution to wider conservation issues as part of our involvement in the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation (GKEPF) conservation initiative. To support their vital work, please click here to make a donation:

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