We take a look back at the highlights of 2023, a year that saw the beginning of exciting new projects, the addition of new K9s to our unit, and new opportunities to continue our work in wildlife conservation.
Establishment of the Mdluli K9 Anti-Poaching Unit

Our biggest project of the year was the collaboration with the Mdluli Safari Lodge, and their Conservation and Anti-Poaching NPC, and the Noctaum Poaching Prevention Academy to form a Mdluli K9 Anti-Poaching Unit.

The lodge is situated on the Mdluli Conservancy in the Maroela section of the Pretoriuskop area of Kruger National Park. It is founded on four core pillars, namely a partnership with the Mdluli Community, wildlife conservation and preservation, ecological design, and the storytelling guests will forever carry with them. It has the “authentic charm of Siswati tradition, and a deep-rooted commitment to conservation”. It was “developed with the purpose of sustainable uplifting the lives and infrastructure of the 45,000 strong Mdluli Community who live in villages adjacent to the Park who receive direct financial and indirect social and economic benefits from the lodge’s operations”.

Mdluli Safari Lodge  ©  Mdluli Safari Lodge

We undertook our first deployment at the beginning of August and have had an ongoing presence at Mdluli since then.  Our team members have been providing protection for the area’s wildlife, including the removal of an enormous number of snares.  We have cleared large areas of bush, which is an ongoing battle, with these nasty wire contraptions being well-hidden along game paths and in bushes.  It is rewarding work, with every snare removed saving an animal’s life.

Carl provides a demonstration of how snares work in this video:

When preparations are complete, we will have our Mdluli K9 unit in attendance, providing additional assistance to our team members on the ground.

This project is one of our toughest to date and an exciting challenge for our team. We are proud to have made a significant impact in the area in our short time there and look forward to continuing success there and making a real difference to the area. We are honoured to be undertaking this project, with thanks to Mdluli Safari Lodge and the Noctaum Poaching Prevention Academy.


Commencement of Mdluli Base Camp

Following the establishment of the Mdluli K9 Anti-Poaching Unit, we were assigned to build a Base Camp in the area to house our K9 Unit, handlers, and operators. This is long-term project will be completed in stages.

It began with an area of bush that was cleared to create the location of our camp. The area was flattened, with fencing trenches being dug out. We need heavy duty double fencing, being in a big 5 area, which will also serve as a K9 run and exercise area. We have recently completed the trenching and foundation work in preparation for the installation of the fence line, which will be erected soon.

Building our Base Camp  ©  Miranda Paech

The next steps to be undertaken include paving and the establishment of the kennels for our K9s. We are looking forward to being able to bring them onsite as they are such an integral part of the success of the unit. We also require sleeping quarters for our rangers, kitchen and bathroom facilities, and an operations area. We still have a long way to go, but it is exciting to see the beginnings of this come together.

We thank our tireless team members who have been working hard on this build, and everyone who has donated funds or supplies towards this major project. We are so grateful for your assistance.

Welcoming Our New Puppies

Earlier in the year, we welcomed six new puppies to our unit, which is something our team thoroughly enjoys. It is always exciting to have new K9s join us, especially from puppies, which we can watch grow and progress through training.

Puppy Isha  ©  Keegan Nicol


Four of our six puppies – all siblings – were named in fundraising initiatives. Our Dutch Shepherd/Rottweiler family members are males Ajani, named by our Media Manager Jane (meaning “he who wins the struggle”), Garan and Willis, and female Isha, who were named through a fundraiser by our sponsor Nikki Carvey of Roadogs Rescue. They are showing great potential for bite and apprehension work. We give a huge thank you for the generous donations towards their upbringing and training.

Puppy Ajani  ©  Keegan Nicol


Puppy Garan  ©  Keegan Nicol


Puppy Willis  ©  Keegan Nicol


Our female Dutch Shepherd Electra has kept us on our toes, with a love of chewing our uniforms and anything else she can find.  She is Balloo’s understudy and is working towards becoming Carl’s special girl.

Puppy Electra watching teammate Torro  ©  Pit-Track


Her brother Odin also joined our unit with his handler.  He enjoys his training sessions and is proving to be highly skilled in a range of competencies including scent detection and apprehension work.

Puppy Odin  ©  Keegan Nicol


These six puppies have grown so much in the last year and are progressing extremely well in training. Some of them have begun attending deployments to continue training. We look forward to continuing their training and preparations for their future roles in the preservation of our wildlife. We will continue to provide updates through our newsletters and social media channels.


Welcoming New Sponsor Action Bulletproof

We were excited to welcome new sponsor Action Bulletproof during the year. Jochen and his team united with us by providing their exceptional bulletproof plate carriers to keep our team protected in the field. They have been provided to our Quick Reaction Force Team, which deploys on specialised operations, combat, and transnational organised crime syndicates.

Action Bulletproof Plate Carrier  ©  Keegan Nicol

Action Bulletproof manufactures high quality bulletproof vests in their South African factory. They are the best in South Africa, having undergone extensive testing, and are especially designed to give protection against high calibre weapons.

Protecting our wildlife is a dangerous job, with over 1,300 rangers having lost their lives in the last decade. We are so grateful for the support of Jochen and his team for keeping our rangers protected. It is an honour for our team members to wear their gear.


Visits from Roadogs Rescue, the Council of Contributors, and our PA & Australian Ambassador Miranda Paech

We were privileged to have three important visitors to our Base Camp during the year. Nikki Carvey of Roadogs Rescue in America visited us in March. She met our new puppies and assisted with a fundraiser to name them, providing valuable funds for their care. She also visited her sponsored K9 Koa on his deployment. It was great to see Nikki again, and we are so thankful for her support of our team and K9s.

Nikki’s Visit  ©  Pit-Track


Kennedy Zakeer and Sara Wilson of the Council of Contributors visited us in September.  They were able to spend time with their sponsored K9 Duba, whilst Sara produced some amazing photos of our team members and K9s working together.  We always enjoy having Kennedy and the Council of Contributors visit, and we are grateful for all the support they provide us with.

The bond between Carl and Balloo captured beautifully by Sara  ©  Sara Wilson/CoC

In October, our Personal Assistant and Australian Ambassador Miranda Paech spent two weeks with us, having travelled from Australia to see our work first-hand.  She was able to work alongside us, meet her sponsored K9 Rex and visit some of our deployment sites including the Mdluli Conservancy.  She saw the day-to-day training of our K9 team and met our handlers and rangers.  During our trip to Mdluli, we were excited to show her some of our amazing wildlife in their natural environment.  We thank Miranda for coming to visit us and for all that she does for us.

Miranda, Carl & Drew  ©  Keegan Nicol

Carl’s Interview on GROOTPlaas

For Earth Day in May, Carl was interviewed about protecting the environment by Mia Slabbert on GROOTplaas. He discussed the issues facing Africa’s wildlife, our work, his inspirations and motivations, and what people can do to help, even from afar.

He commented that “We’re sitting with 14,000 rhinos in South Africa. That means that 96% of the planet’s rhinos are in South Africa. People look at poaching now and they see that the annual statistics have been dropping. The reason the annual statistics have been dropping in poaching numbers is because the populations have dropped so much. The problem is dire. The situation needs immediate intervention if we’re going to have rhinos for our future.”

GrootPlaas Interview  ©  GrootPlaas YouTube


He also explained “there’s a place for every South African to get involved… We need to come together as South Africans and we need to fight for our national heritage, and we need to save these creations of God and make a substantial difference. We have the most diverse, most beautiful country in the whole world. We have the most beautiful wildlife, and we need to protect it.”

Thank you to Mia and the team at GROOTplaas for giving us the opportunity to spread the word and help educate people about the plight of our national heritage.


Pit-Track Members Puppy Training Classes

In June, we began offering K9 training to the public at our Base Camp on Saturdays from puppies and beginners to more advanced training. Our members’ dogs are being trained by our expert K9 handlers in various areas including basics, socialization, obedience, obstacles, and protection. The funds from these classes go directly towards our anti-poaching unit.

Our members and their dogs have been enjoying our classes. The dogs have been doing well as they progress through the stages of training and go home happy and sometimes exhausted after an action-packed session. Some of our K9s, particularly our puppies, have joined the sessions to help with socialization and as part of their own training programs.

Members K9 Training Class  ©  Keegan Nicol

It has been so enjoyable to meet some of our local members and their dogs, and we are honoured to be able to assist with their training. We are so glad everyone is enjoying our classes, including our handlers. Thank you to all of our members and their dogs for their attendance at our classes. It’s great having you join us on Saturdays!

Attending Rhino Revolution Demonstration Event

In mid-October we attended the Rhino Revolution Wild Talks Series near Hoedspruit. Our Directors Carl and Drew attended with K9 Handler Kyle. They were joined by our anti-poaching K9s Balloo, Rex and Torro, who performed exceptionally well. Our photographer and videographer Keegan Nicol was on hand to capture the event.

Rex doing bag searches  ©  Keegan Nicol

We were joined by guests of Rhino Revolution and community members from the Hoedspruit area. It was a great opportunity for the public to see our K9s in action and learn more about our work and K9 training. Our Sable Shepherds Torro and Rex undertook open field searches, pipe searches and baggage searches, and Belgian Malinois Balloo did bite work demonstrations. K9 Rex was the crowd pleaser entertaining everyone in his usual style. Thanks so much to the Rhino Revolution team for hosting us at the event, and for all you do for our rhinos.


Welcoming New Team Members

During the year, we welcomed new members to our team, who have been forming close bonds with our K9s and doing a great job. We are blessed to have such a great team, who are often off on deployments away from their families and friends. We say a huge thank you to all of our team members, on the front line and behind the scenes, who work tirelessly and passionately in the protection and preservation of our wildlife. We are so proud of all of them and are honoured to have them on this journey with us. Our team is strong and committed and will never give up.

Team Members having a drink together  ©  Keegan Nicol


Ongoing Support of our Incredible Sponsors

We have once again had the generous support of our incredible group of sponsors, which we couldn’t do without. Great Plains Foundation and Project Ranger have continued to provide us with crucial funding towards our work. Happy Hollow Zoo also supported us with a funding grant towards our work. The Council of Contributors sponsored our K9 Duba and provided us with ongoing support.

K9 Duba Sponsored by the CoC © CoC

Magnum Boots Africa and Hi-Tec South-Africa have given us a large amount of gear for our K9 handlers, including a range of their boots and clothing. These are so important to keep our team members comfortable when out in the field for long hours.

Our Team in Magnum Boots  ©  Keegan Nicol


Our Team in Hi-Tec Boots  ©  Keegan Nicol


Our K9s were again well fed by the team at Nutribyte Premium Pet Food with the best K9 nutrition on the planet. Their sister company Nutrimed Animal Health also provided us with their animal health supplements.

Odin & Willis enjoying their Nutribyte  ©  Keegan Nicol


Bravecto assisted with their flea and tick treatments, which are an essential requirement for our team of over 30 K9s.

Bravecto keeps our K9s healthy  ©  Keegan Nicol


Rogue Royalty in Australia provided us with a bunch of new SupaTuff K9 collars and harnesses, which allow our K9s to work in comfort and style.

Zarafa in her Rogue Royalty Collar  ©  Keegan Nicol


Petbound Co and War Dog provided us with additional standard collars for our K9s.

Zarafa in her War Dog Collar  ©  Keegan Nicol


Beeztees South Africa and Valemount Trading have provided us with Sumo toys, which are much loved by our K9s.

Zarafa going for the Sumo Toy  ©  Keegan Nicol


The generous volunteer team at Blankets for Baby Rhinos donated blankets and household equipment for our unit, which were greatly appreciated.

Emerald City Pet Rescue provided us with funds towards our work, which is always so important and well-received. Thank you so much for all of your support.

We give massive thanks to every one of our incredible sponsors. Your support allows us to continue our work and fight this war against poaching and extinction. Your funds and equipment for our rangers, handlers and K9s are vitally important. We couldn’t do what we do without you. You are all making a difference and contributing towards our dream of wildlife for our future.

We also give huge thanks to our valuable corporate, individual and Fund a K9 members. Your support is a privilege and is greatly appreciated by our team. We are so grateful for your funds and donations, your social media support, and helping to raise awareness about our work. It all helps what we do and makes a valuable contribution to our team.

Our Rangers overlooking their area of protection   ©  Keegan Nicol


As we look back on the year, we are proud of what we have achieved, with exciting new projects and challenges, and welcoming new K9s, team members and sponsors. We look forward to the year ahead, with the continuation of our Mdluli Base Camp build and increasing our presence in the area with our K9 unit. We are confident that we can achieve further successes and save more of our wildlife. We are excited about what is to come and are motivated and dedicated to protecting our wildlife.

One Team. One Dream. Wildlife for our Future.