Tracker Dogs in Gonarezhou, protecting our elephants…

Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge has a wonderful variety of elephant sightings to offer guests…
From the Lodge and room balconies we often see these gorgeous animals crossing the great Save River….often with tiny babies helped along through deep water by Mum’s or Auntie’s trunk…

One of my sketches, elephants seen on the Save river bank….


In Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), Zimbabwe, elephant poaching needs to be carefully monitored and managed, since we have seen increased losses of elephants to poachers throughout Zimbabwe.

We want to see the sun keep rising on our elephants, here on the great rivers of Gonarezhou…

Stunning light in this photo by Steph Walton…on the sands of the Save River…….

Kelli and Anton banner


Frankfurt Zoological Society has decided to deploy tracker dogs in the field, to track down poachers and help combat elephant poaching.
Edward Hlatshwayo, Promise Kanuka, and Daison Hlelelwa successfully completed a challenging training course, and are now the first three professional dog handlers specialized to track down poachers in Zimbabwe. All three originate from communities adjacent to Gonarezhou. They have formed a great team with dogs Roxy and Samy.

Daison Hlelelwa (with Samy) and Edward Hlatshwayo (with Roxy)

Daison Hlelelwa (with Samy) and Edward Hlatshwayo (with Roxy)


Excerpts from the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area newsletter:

“Gonarezhou’s elephant population is doing well, management is tackling the potential threat of poaching head on. The budding ranger corps is growing and growing; rising stronger every day to the challenge of protecting Zimbabwe’s iconic wildlife.


Already, over half of neighbouring Mozambique’s elephant population has been lost in the past five year. Furthermore, the 2014 Pan-African elephant survey revealed a 40% and 70% reduction in elephant numbers in the Mana Pools and Sebungwe Areas of Zimbabwe. Yet, the Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) has shown a 130% rise in elephant numbers during the same period.

Unfortunately, poachers seem to be turning their gaze to this protected area. In 2015 more poached elephants were encountered than ever before, though management cautions that this rise can be partly attributed to increased patrols by more rangers, who are better skilled than ever.

The potential threat is not being taken lightly. Patrol strategies are constantly being adapted and the Mozambique Border Unit was deployed in December 2014, operating from two permanent bases close to the border. The following year saw the implementation of a deployment system which allows for the entire western boundary to be patrolled on a daily basis by dedicated Fence Units on foot and on bicycle. They are now also able to operate from ranger pickets that have been constructed over the last two years. A Quick-Reaction Unit has also been formed, and was assigned a dedicated vehicle. They are now able to support the units on the park boundaries.

Much effort has also been spent on ranger recruitment and training. Out of 200 prospective applicants, 22 students from five communities surrounding the park completed a training course at the dedicated training camp established in the centre of the park in 2015. They are reported to be of the best calibre yet, which was proven when they arrested eight poachers and recovered 15 pieces of ivory as well as snares, skins and dried meat while on patrol exercises during the course. The total number of cadets employed now stands at 62.

Further strength is being lent to the cadets by a newly established canine unit. With support from the Save the Elephants’ Crisis Fund (and training by Invictus K9), two canines from proven blood-lines were hand-picked from a specialist breeder in Europe and shipped to Gonarezhou in July 2015. They will primarily be used to track poacher spoor in the field. The elongated shape of Gonarezhou means that virtually at all times one is within 20 to 30 km from one of the boundaries at all times, making it easy for poachers to exit before the rangers can reach them.

The conditions in Gonarezhou –with regards to terrain, distances and temperatures are all very challenging, and the next few months will tell whether the canine unit will be able to impact significantly on law enforcement success in the park. In order to maximise that probability, two months of follow-up and advanced training will be conducted in 2016.

The routine support of the Gonarezhou Conservation Project (GCP) to law enforcement patrols continued throughout 2015, with timely supply of fuel and rations for patrol deployments, vehicle maintenance and aerial support and surveillance.

With the support of the International Rhino Foundation, a third repeater station and antenna was purchased, and a mast has been constructed. This will consolidate park-wide digital radio communication.

Elephants cross the Runde river below Chilojo Cliffs……

elephants crossing the Runde river -lo res

extra reading on various conservation initiatives using tracker dogs:

Panthera -using dogs to save cats!

Richard Bonham article on tracker dogs and Big Life:

Lewa Conservancy and tracker Dogs

various FZS stories from Gonarezhou:

About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
This entry was posted in adventure travel, Africa, African Safari, African wild dogs, african wildlife, african wildlife conservation fund, animal rights, anti poaching, beauty, bio diversity, bush camps, Chilo Gorge, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, clive stockil, community conservation, conservation, conservation education, conservation news, conservation publication, eco-tourism, elephants, endangered species, Frankfurt Zoological Society, gonarezhou national park, great limpopo transfrontier conservation Area, Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, International rhino foundation, landscape, lewa conservancy, lowveld rhino Trust, Panthera, Poaching, rhinos, Richard Bonham, Rivers, safari, SAVE, Save River, Save Valley Conservancy, Tusk Trust, White rhinos, wilderness, wildlife trade, zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Ballet, Zimbabwe Parks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tracker Dogs in Gonarezhou, protecting our elephants…

  1. Pingback: Deeper, and deeper, into Africa! | wineandwilddogs

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