At a secret training camp called Battle Creek, in the bush, two hours from Johannesburg, dogs and handlers are being trained in using Special Forces techniques to try to stem the tide of poaching that has seen thousands of rhinos and other endangered animals killed in South Africa and other African countries.
Handlers and their dogs are also trained to go on foot patrols for up to three days carrying their own food and water, and hide in the bush wearing military ghillie suits to help catch poachers. Each dog and handler share a sleeping bag at night.
An initiative of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, the military-style training camp lasts three months and sees the dogs and handlers bonding as they learn the art of anti-poaching warfare together.
With names like Venom, Killer, Alpha and Delta, the dogs are either Belgium Malinois or Germany Shepherds and are chosen from litters of puppies bred at Battle Creek.
It is estimated that 400 canine units are needed in South Africa’s game reserves alone and the training camp has about 50 dogs and 40 puppies at the moment.
With no end in sight for the rhino and other wild animals being killed by poachers for their hugely profitable horns, the fight against poachers will continue and it is hoped that “man’s best friend” and their handlers can play an influential role in stemming the tide of poaching.
Caption GOTCHA: Two dogs attack a man posing as a poacher, during an anti-poaching training exercise at the Battle Creek K9 training facility near Rustenburg, South Africa. The secret training camp is located in the African bush, two hours from Johannesburg.
Pictures: Kim Ludbrook
Caption DARING: A former special forces soldier and now anti-poaching dog handler jumps out of a helicopter with his dog into a shallow dam while trying to nab a suspected poacher.
Caption STEALTHY: Instructor Elliot Moseselane, 32, lies in the bush in a sniper ghillie suit with his dog, Alpha, during a simulated ambush during training at Battle Creek.
Caption CLOSE BOND: Instructor and dog handler Lucas Mosana, right, and with his dog, Delta, and another instructor and his dog sleep together in oversized sleeping bags in the bush during a night-time training exercise at the Battle Creek K9 training facility.
Caption READY FOR ACTION: Dog handler Elliot Moseselane and Alpha show off their sniper ghillie attire at the Battle Creek K9 training facility outside Johannesburg.
Caption SHOWING HOW IT’S DONE: A dog attacks an instructor while students and other instructors look on during an anti-poaching training exercise at Battle Creek.
Caption FORMIDABLE TEAM: Instructor Elliot Moseselane in the bush with his dog, Alpha, during a simulated ambush at the Battle Creek K9 training facility in South Africa. Both are wearing sniper ghillie suits.
Caption PLAYTIME: Assistant puppy instructor Johannes Moremi plays with 4-month old Belgian Malinois puppies at the K9 training facility. The litter of seven puppies play for 30 minutes a day in the special area that mimics what the dogs will do as adult dogs during their training.