K9 collaboration at its best

Everyone loves a good success story, especially when it comes to anti-poaching initiatives. We’ve just returned from Matetsi Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and besides the magnificent lodge and wonderful wildlife we experienced while we were there, we can’t stop talking about the great strides that Co-founder, Sara Gardiner, and Security and Conservation Manager, Brian Gurney, are making with their formidable Amaganyane anti-poaching team.

The Amaganyane team was first formed in 2021, in response to numerous local poaching attacks that were undoing six years of dedicated conservation work and thriving biodiversity at Matetsi.

“Poaching is a major problem in Zimbabwe, as it is all over Africa,” notes Brian Gurney. “In areas where there are limited economic options to incur a legal income, members of the community sometimes resort to poaching as a means of survival. Unfortunately, this is predominantly the case for the communities that live across the river from Matetsi Private Game Reserve.”

Today, Matetsi’s in-house anti-poaching team consists of 50 scouts, 4 dog trackers, three cruisers for vehicle patrols, and a boat. Amaganyane have removed 554 snares (from both Matetsi and the immediate neighboring area of the National Park) and 4500m of illegal fishing nets from the Zambezi River that runs along Matetsi’s boundary to date. They have also assisted with rescuing four wild animals injured in snares.

The success of the anti-poaching unit since its inception has been tremendous, to say the least.

“Most of the incidents that we’ve responded to were in the first half of 2021, when the team was first formed. Since then, we’ve had a huge decline in poaching activities and illegal activities on the river,” Brian Gurney enthuses.

Each member of the Amaganyane team is highly valued, but it’s safe to say that we hold a soft spot for the four-legged friends in the unit who tackle their daily duties with a particular kind of energy and enthusiasm. Not only is it heartening to learn that the K9 unit is composed of special rescue dogs who started their lives as puppies in an animal shelter with very little hope for a bright future, but it’s also fascinating to learn about how the scouts and tracker dogs work together to achieve their wins.

“The K9 unit works very collaboratively with our scouts,” Brian explains.  “While the scouts track visually, the dogs support the scouts by following scents and trails. They maintain momentum while tracking the spoor, more often than not at a much faster pace than what visual tracking alone can achieve. The K9 unit also acts as a very strong deterrent to would-be poachers who are often put off by the thought of tracker dogs being on their heels.”

As Co-founder Sara Gardiner explains, the establishment of the Amaganyane anti-poaching team has been an amazing step on Matetsi’s conservation journey, and their presence and success around Matetsi and its neighboring areas has put the lodge in a wonderful position to take an even bigger next step, namely looking for funding partners to work together with on introducing rhino back into Matetsi.

Anti-poaching initiatives like Matetsi’s are protecting endangered species for future generations to enjoy, and we’re proud of the fact that they’re one of our top travel partners when YPA clients request a Zimbabwean safari adventure.

If you’d like to support Matetsi’s initiatives, or better yet visit Matetsi and meet the Amaganyane team for yourself, chat to us about planning a safari that you and your loved ones will never forget.


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