This year has been quite a year! We’ve had endings and farewells, new beginnings and welcomes, challenges and exciting new opportunities, all culminating in a year that we have come out of stronger and more determined than ever to provide a future for our wildlife.

Our first Pangolin Research Team  ©  Pit-Track

We began the year manning the gates with our K9 team in the Greater Kruger National Park, a posting we have been privileged to hold for many years.  But all good things must come to an end and we completed our deployment on the gates earlier in the year.  Sadly, this meant we had to farewell some of our K9 team.  Calimero, Matimba and Rihati were returned to their owners, who we are happy to report are continuing their roles in anti-poaching.  At the same time, our “princess” Elly retired from frontline work.  We give thanks to these incredible K9s for their hard work and for the love they brought us.  It was an honour to have them on our team.

Calimero “the General”  ©  Drew Abrahamson / Pit-Track

“Princess” Elly   ©  Drew Abrahamson / Pit-Track

But, as they say, when one door closes another one opens, and so we welcomed our three new puppies, Duba, Zarafa and Ntima, who were sponsored by the K9 working bloodline legend Johann Klopper.  Duba and Zarafa were proudly named by the incredible Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Great Plains Conservation and Project Ranger, with Ntima being sponsored by Vom Jochmorney Breeding Kennels, City Paws South Africa and Roadogs Rescue.  They came to us as bundles of endless energy and unlimited cuteness.  We have had the privilege of raising and training them, which has been an ongoing source of pride and joy for our team.

Duba ©  Pit-Track

Zarafa ©  Pit-Track

Ntima ©  Pit-Track

We remain on protection detail at the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, and have been excited and awed to see the success they have had this year, with numerous rhino calves being born to rescued parents. We are honoured to be tasked with protecting these precious animals and will strive to continue doing all we can in the protection of our rhinos.


We are so proud of our team’s work and for having them
on this journey with us. We are only as strong as our
team, and we have an exceptional team, one that will
never give up.


Following our departure from the gates, we were blessed to be granted use of an area of land which has become our new Base Camp. We have worked tirelessly on upgrading the house and land, building kennels with the assistance of Forever Kennels South Africa, installing water sources, solar panels, fencing and K9 run areas. We are grateful for the assistance of Journey2Green, who helped us with solar panels. They are huge supporters of conservation, and we say a big thank you for their help. We also extend our sincere thanks to the property owners for allowing us to turn our dream into a reality!

Manager of Construction Balloo on duty  ©  Pit-Track

From this  ©  Pit-Track

To this  ©  Pit-Track

Our work on the Base Camp continues, with further K9 runs to be installed and a 40-piece obstacle course.  Our goal is to turn this into a world-class K9 training facility which will be invaluable to us in the furtherance of our work.

With our changing work on the ground, we have undertaken retraining of some of our K9s.  Achillies, Rex and Torro have performed exceptionally well in their retraining and have been certified for new areas of detection, and will be joined by Duba, Ntima and Zarafa.

Our K9 team having fun  ©  Pit-Track

As we do each year, we celebrated World Lion Day in August and World Rhino Day in September – two days that are so important to us to celebrate these amazing animals and to continue to raise awareness about their plight.  To see our tribute to our favourite apex predator, the “king of beasts”, click here.  To see our tribute to the gentle giants of the savannah, click here.

Two of our favourite animals  ©  Chad Cocking  &  Corlette Wessels


September in particular was an extremely busy and rewarding month for our team.  We had 12 action-packed days of Combat Medical and Firearm Training with Stefano Bertocchi and Sam Brown of the Poaching Prevention Academy.  We participated in hands-on, real-life simulations, educational talks, practical demonstrations and learning.  Stefano and Carl ran our team through various firearm exercises, with both handguns and rifles, including weapon safety, shooting techniques, and target practice.  In a simulated exercise, Stefano was “taken down” by Balloo under the direction of Carl.

Firearm Training  ©  Pit-Track


Medical Training  ©  Pit-Track

Sam educated the team on combat medical dangers including gunshots and wounds, rescue and first aid, and hands-on medical training. Some of our team members were “rescued” from vehicles and treated, with Carl posing as a critically injured ranger who was treated in a simulated life-saving scenario.

Stefano and Sam came to us loaded with donations from Italian boot manufacturer Crispi and Finnish medical company CVN Medical Solutions, both of whose products are an enormous help in our work in the field.

Our time with them was invaluable and the lessons we learnt will hold us in good stead for the future. We are already discussing their return for more training next year and we can’t wait to welcome them back.


We are honoured to be tasked with protecting these precious
animals and will strive to continue doing all we can in
the protection of our rhinos.


We were also visited by the team at the Braveheart Bio-Dog Academy, who provided us with new stainless steel pipes to assist with our K9 discrimination and detection training, which are invaluable in ongoing training exercises and drills. A massive thank you to the Braveheart Bio-Dog Academy for their visit and providing us with this awesome equipment.

Visit from the Braveheart Bio-Dog Academy  ©  Pit-Track

Later in September, we attended the Heritage Day Festival at the Supersport Park in Centurion on invitation from sponsor Nutribyte Premium Pet Food.  We were able to meet members of the public and discuss our work, whilst our K9s performed a detection and bite work demonstration.  At the event, we sold tickets to our MalaMala competition, which has allowed us to fund four new K9 runs at our base camp.  We congratulate helicopter pilot Nico Jacobs of Rhino 911 for winning the competition.  A huge thanks also to MalaMala for this incredible prize and to everyone who entered.

Our K9s and Handlers on Heritage Day  ©  Pit-Track

We were incredibly excited to announce one of our new projects, the Pangolin Reference Sample Collection Research Program. With the backing of Dereck and Beverly Joubert and Project Ranger, we are working with Professor Sam Wasser of the Centre for Environmental Science at the University of Washington on this important program. Our K9s are tasked with tracking pangolin scat, which is collected and sent to Professor Wasser for DNA analysis and vital research. This will assist in the location of pangolins, so that protection details can be deployed to their area. With pangolins being the most trafficked animal on the planet, at a rate of five per minute, this is essential. A huge amount of work, funding and support has gone into the establishment of this project, which we are hopeful will produce great success and be crucial in the protection of these elusive and special animals.

Our first deployment at SanWild was a huge success. It began with an intensive imprinting program, which our K9s performed exceptionally well, regardless of the challenges they faced. Achillies, Torro and Rex were all successfully imprinted on the new substance odour. A massive thank you to SanWild for their support of our program and allowing us use of their facility for our research. Their hospitality was exceptional and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

Pangolin Research Team resting between searches  ©  Pit-Track


Throughout the year, we have been able to speak with some of our supporters and highlight the incredible work of our colleagues in conservation. We celebrated our highly regarded “Women in Conservation” for March’s International Women’s Day, being Pit-Track and Captured in Africa Foundation Director Drew Abrahamson, Council of Contributors President and Founder Kennedy Zakeer, Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary Founder and CEO Petronel Nieuwoudt, and Hope for Wildlife Helicopter Services Director and Pilot Jana Meyer. Our blog can be read here.

Drew Abrahamson, Kennedy Zakeer, Petronel Nieuwoudt & Jana Meyer
© Pit-Track, Council of Contributors, Care for Wild & Hope for Wildlife


Early in the year, we interviewed Zimbabwean-born Australian-based author Tina Clark, who writes adventure fiction novels set in Africa. Tina is a Pit-Track member who assists us with raising awareness about our work. She provided us with her insights on her novels and wildlife conservation, which was an enjoyable read. Her interview can be read here.

We are excited about the future and what lies ahead for our team. One thing is for sure, we will continue to do everything we can to protect our wildlife. It is our passion and our calling in life.

We have had incredible support from our sponsors again this year. Great Plains Foundation and Project Ranger provided us with crucial funding to carry on our work. As Carl points out, they have been “a bright shining star in an otherwise silent dark war”. We are truly blessed to be a part of Project Ranger, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Thanks Project Ranger!  ©  Pit-Track


We are extremely grateful for the research assistance we have received from the Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre.  Their non-profit centre is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of local South African wildlife.  With the belief that every wild creature matters, their focus is on helping the animals heal as well as preparing them for their return to the wild where they belong.  They are doing an incredible job and we look forward to their continuing assistance with our pangolin program.

We are privileged to have the ongoing support of our friends at the Council of Contributors.  Kennedy Zakeer and her team have completed some fantastic projects this year, which make a real difference to the teams on the ground fighting this war against poaching.  Funding frontline work is vital and their dedication to this goal is second-to-none.

Nutribyte Premium Pet Food, undisputedly the best K9 nutrition on the planet, have kept our K9s happily fed.  The team at Nutribyte are massive supporters of the protection and preservation of South Africa’s endangered wildlife and we are forever in their favour.  Their sister company Nutrimed Animal Health have also provided us with support this year with their exceptional range of animal health supplements.

Thanks Nutribyte!  ©  Pit-Track


Our friends at Rogue Royalty in Australia have continued to provide us with their Supa Tuff range of K9 harnesses, which are perfect for our working dogs.  Wendell Van Jour and his Rogue Royalty team were our first official sponsor and are still a big part of Pit-Track today.  As always, we are honoured to be part of the “Rogue Royalty Familia” – thank you!

Balloo in his Rogue Royalty collar  ©  Pit-Track


We received binoculars for our K9 teams from our friends at Saving The Survivors, which are a great help to our team in the field.  Valemount Trading and Beeztees South Africa have again provided us with their Sumo toys, which are much loved by our K9s.  M-Pets South Africa have also sponsored us with essential equipment for our K9s.  Thanks to all of these organisations for your ongoing support and exceptional products, which are a huge benefit to our teams on the ground.

Duba’s going for the Sumo toy!  ©  Pit-Track


Magnum Boots Africa have continued to provide us with their exceptional products.  As Carl says when visiting Africa, “Take nothing but pictures…  leave nothing but Magnum Boots Africa prints!”.  Magnum not only supports us, but also Great Plains Conservation, where they help to keep boots on the ground protecting our beloved wildlife.

Thanks Magnum Boots Africa!  ©  Pit-Track


The team at Hi-Tec South-Africa supplied us with more gear for our K9 handlers, which we always appreciate.  Their gear is of the highest quality and their support is unconditional.

Thanks Hi-Tec!  ©  Pit-Track


The amazing volunteers at Blankets for Baby Rhinos donated some woollen blankets for our cold winter.  Our puppies particularly loved the warm blankets to snuggle on.

Zarafa on her blanket  ©  Pit-Track


MSD Animal Health remained onboard with us, with Carl appearing on their “Emergence” podcast called “The One About Anti-Poaching” earlier in the year.  During the podcast, Pit-Track’s work was discussed, along with our K9s, how Carl became involved in anti-poaching, the evolution of anti-poaching units, the poaching crisis and more.

Our friends at Emerald City Pet Rescue have again provided us with valuable funding towards our work, which can never be underestimated.  Vivian Goldbloom and her team have been long-time supporters of us and are passionate about helping animals across the globe.

Our GSP Tracking Pack  ©  Pit-Track


We offer the hugest of thanks to all of our incredible sponsors.  “Your support for Pit-Track is second-to-none and allows us to carry on with our work and living our dream”, explains Carl.  “We could not do this without you, from the funds we receive, to the equipment for our K9s and handlers, and everything in between.  We are so grateful to have you on our team.  You are proudly making a difference to our wildlife and we are forever in your debt.”

We also give an enormous thank you to all of our team members, including our Directors, Handlers and K9s, along with our Personal Assistant Suzette Mollentze, Australian Ambassador Miranda Paech, and Blog Content Writer Jane Alexander.  Our team on the ground works tirelessly and often in difficult and trying conditions.  Their passion and love for animals drives them to carry on this ongoing fight for our wildlife.  We are so proud of their work and for having them on this journey with us.  We are only as strong as our team, and we have an exceptional team, one that will never give up.

Our Team  ©  Pit-Track


To all of our valuable members – thank you for your ongoing support, which gives us the chance to do what we love so much. We are honoured that you have continued to be a part of the Pit-Track family, and we couldn’t do this without you. We cannot express our gratitude enough for all that you do – from providing funding, to following us and sharing our posts on social media. Raising awareness about our work is just as important as funding it, and every little bit helps, whether it be financial or non-financial support.

“Project Ranger has been “a bright shining star in an otherwise silent dark war.”
Carl Thornton

We wish all of our Pit-Track family, team members, K9s, individual and corporate members, sponsors and supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope you have an enjoyable holiday season with your family and friends, and we wish you all the best for 2023.

As we come to the end of the year, we reflect upon what we have achieved this year. We have been through tough times, but those have made us stronger and more motivated than ever. We have achieved some incredible things, from building up our base camp from scratch, to beginning some critical new projects. There is still more to come – As we come to the end of the year, we reflect upon what we have achieved this year. We have been through tough times, but those have made us stronger and more motivated than ever. We have achieved some incredible things, from building up our base camp from scratch, to beginning some critical new projects. There is still more to come –2023 will see us embark on more new and exciting projects. Detection of contraband such as rhino horn, ivory, pangolin scales and lion bone will be high on the agenda, so watch this space! We are excited about the future and what lies ahead for our team. One thing is for sure, we will continue to do everything we can to protect our wildlife. It is our passion and our calling in life. Our animals need us and we need them. We won’t let them down.

Pit-Track Base Camp  ©  Pit-Track


One Team. One Dream. Wildlife for the Future.