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21 October2021

by Greg Cooke

A highly specialised unit dedicated to preserving our precious wildlife through strategic counter poaching operations.

The Counter Poaching Dog Unit at Royal Malewane, also known as Tango K9, is a team of passionate Rangers and highly-trained dogs who aim to protect and conserve the endangered species living in the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve.

The remarkable capabilities of this K9 Unit far exceed what technology can yet deliver when it comes to detection, apprehension, and tracking. Their strategic counter poaching operations include anti-poaching patrols, snare sweeps, preventative maintenance of the reserve boundaries and community education.


Thanks to the support of generous donors, the unit is growing quickly. The K9 Unit currently consists of 5 Multi-Purpose K9’s and 3 dedicated Trailing K9’s.

The Multi-purpose K9’s are perfect all-rounders with high drive and an ability to detect various forms of contraband in hard-to-find places such as vehicles, buildings, bags and during field searches. They are also accomplished in trailing human scent when time is of the essence. Lastly, the Multi-purpose K9’s specialise in handler protection as well as suspect apprehension. The dedicated Trailing K9’s are experts in trailing human scent and have the ability to “back track” allowing the Ranger’s to confirm suspects activities on the reserve once apprehended.


Known as The Sheriff of the K9 Unit, Beare is a Bloodhound x Doberman Pinscher cross and came from a very successful litter bred by Gaven Holden Smith. His siblings immediately made a big impact in the Kruger National Park with some long distance trailing of poachers which led to the arrest of numerous criminals. One of the advantages of these dogs is that they can take a fairly cold spoor and track the scent over incredibly long distances.

Beare is trained to follow the scent of cold spoor of up to 7 hours old, making him a highly capable tracking dog. These dogs have been known to track down poachers over a distance of 21km, a clear indication of their heightened and highly specialised tracking abilities.


Justice is an energetic Belgian Malinois who joined the unit as a fully trained attack dog. He was generously sponsored by Wildlife Protection Solutions.

Justice is also trained to search vehicles, buildings & humans for firearms, animal products like ivory & rhino horn, and has skills in handler protection should the scenario require.

True to his nickname, The Tornado, when the crate door pops open dynamic Justice emerges and is enthusiastically ready to start and finish the job at hand.


Murphy is a powerful female Belgian Malinois sponsored by a generous Australian couple visiting the area.

She’s a fast learner and has been trained in protection, detection & apprehension. She was locally trained and is an expert in searching vehicles, buildings & humans for firearms and animal products like ivory & rhino horn.

Belgian Malinois are extremely protective over their handlers and will fight with all their strength to protect them, making them brilliant and remarkably loyal companions in the bush.


Spots is a Belgian Malinois who joined the K9 Unit as a young pup. Since then he has grown to love personal protection work and has formed a deep connection with all his handlers.

His intelligence, agility and high level of dedication makes Spots the perfect anti-poaching soldier in the field.


Xipoko meaning The Ghost in Shangaan, the local dialect of the area, lives up to her name when night falls.

Being one of the youngest members of the K9 Unit, Xipoko has a jovial outlook and a youthful spirit – but don’t let this fool you as she is always ready for the fight.

Being a Dutch Shepherd x Belgian Malinois cross, Xipoko excels in tracking, detection and protection. With tracking as one of her strengths, she is currently in training to follow scent-specific tracks.


Duke, also known as Ntwadumela, meaning ‘he who greets with fire’ is a Dutch Shepherd who joined the K9 Unit as an 8 week old recruit. He was trained in-house by his dedicated handler.

Duke is a true Multi-Purpose K9 with skills in tracking, apprehension as well as detecting contraband.


Khala is a pure-bred Bloodhound known as The Nose since her natural tracking ability is unmatched.

Similar to Beare, Khala has droopy ears and wrinkly skin which traps odour particles, enhancing their sense of smell and tracking ability and increasing the likelihood of success when combating poachers.

The name Khala comes from iKhala in iSizulu which means ‘nose’.


Storm is the latest edition to the K9 Unit who has big shoes to fill.

Storm is a female Blue Tick Coonhound who will be trained as a cold scent trailing dog. Blue Tick’s are masters at using their natural instincts when it comes to tracking and can follow older tracks under the most challenging of circumstances.

Both handlers and their dogs need to be physically fit and strong, patient and confident, responsible, alert and observant. Handlers need to be able to work with and understand their dogs, as well as care for them and develop a tight bond that allows the unit to work in synergy during operations.


Tango K9 is a non-profit conservation organisation who rely on the valuable patronage of our guests and their interest in the broader impact of tourism and conservation in Africa. After witnessing our magnificent wildlife and visiting our conservation projects, many guests generously contribute vital funds and as such we have compiled a Wish List. For more information, or to make a donation, please contact

  • 4×4 vehicle
  • GPS Dog collar tracking device & remote  x 2
  • Dog control collar & remote x 2
  • Recon binoculars (10 x 42) x 1
  • Tactical night vision equipment
  • 3 x 1 man tents
  • Vehicle spotlight x 2
  • Torches x 3 (rechargeable)
  • Handheld GPS x 2
  • Android cell phone x 2
  • Radio spare batteries x 2
  • Solar battery charger
  • Trail cameras
  • Covert detection system

Royal Malewane is also a founder member of the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation (“GKEPF”) which is a unique anti-poaching initiative. The founders include, The Kruger National Park (“KNP”), Peace Parks, World Wildlife Fund and the Association of Private Nature Reserves (“APNR”). Royal Malewane is located within the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve which forms part of the APNR.

The GKEPF ‘s objective is to protect all wildlife in the central Kruger, the APNR reserves to the west and the private game reserves to the east of central Kruger in Mozambique. The GKEPF adopts a holistic approach to a problem that cannot be solved by individual reserves or lodges acting independently.

The GKEPF’s initial mandate is to protect wildlife in its natural state. In addition, the GKEPF will play an active role in combating the illegal international trade in wildlife. While good work is already being done in this regard by the South African Police, Interpol and the FBI, GKEPF will ensure greater resources are allocated to this effort.

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