Hi I am Smile Ncube.
Firstly, I would like to thank CRCI and Imvelo Safari Lodges for giving me the opportunity to attend a wildlife management training program in South Africa.
The program was conducted by the Paramount Group which has years of experience in wildlife management and conservation. It was a 3 month-long program and I was excited to learn not only about dog handling but also expand my knowledge of wildlife management.
On the first day of the program we had an introduction session about the importance of wildlife management and conservation. We learnt about the different types of animal species and the threats they face, including habitat loss, climate change and illegal poaching.
Over the next few days, we had various interactive sessions with experts during which we learned about different techniques and methods used in dog handling.
During the first month we covered a lot of theory on how to look after your dog, how to know your dog etc which gave us a clue on how to work with the dogs. Later, we did practicals with the dogs and that was a really exciting part of the training.
One of the most exciting aspects of the training program was the field trip we undertook in the second month. We went a long trek to a game reserve. We spotted a few animals which they hold there such as white tigers … We enjoyed watching those animals because some of them were new to us!
Throughout the program, our theory learning was done in parallel with practicals with dogs. My dog was a female named Whisper. As soon as they allocated us dogs, we started duties like cleaning the kennels, monitoring and feeding of the dogs every day, etc. Cleaning of the kennels was done in the morning and the first thing before cleaning was to observe the outside of the kennel and check your dog for any signs of illness, change in behaviour, and anything that is unusual or new to you. After cleaning of the kennels was done, we usually took the dogs for a walk which was done everyday at the same time and following the same route. Grooming of the dogs was also important.
As I started the work with Whisper, I first had to create a bond with her which wasn’t easy because she was a bit scared of me. As the days went by, I tried to create a bond by playing games and looking friendly so that she wouldn’t be scared of me. There was a kong (award ball) so I used a kong to play with her and as the days passed we were bounded together ... from then on, it was easy for me to work with her.
I introduced her to tracking which was to follow the human scent. On the first days of tracking she was struggling because it was her first time to do tracking. During tracking I had to praise the dog and award her after tracking. Praising and awarding was done after the dog did the correct thing I had commanded it to do. That worked well and Whisper improved massively.
We also did bite work on the biting field and Whisper showed a lot of interest in this. For the bite work there was a bite sleeve and a bite suit which was used on the program. As the dog handler now, I hope to show the experience gained through my training and working hard with Whisper to improve our skills and teach others.
Skills learnt and developed during my training included tracking (animal and human), walking with the dog and patrolling, bite work, sessions on care for service dogs, handler and canine fitness, dipping kennel dogs, sniffing and detection work, first aid for the dogs and veterinary sessions... We also attended some explosive lectures and demonstrations and visited a predator rehabilitation centre to allow the dogs to get used to the smells of cheetahs, lions, ….
During the training program we met different people who came from different countries and who spoke different languages, but all of us we were connected in this course and in our desire to learn.
As the program drew to an end, we were all thrilled with the amount of knowledge that we had gained during the 3 month-long training program. The program had equipped us with the necessary skills and techniques for proper dog handling.
Overall it was an incredible experience that taught me a lot about the importance of wildlife conservation and the challenges we face in preserving wildlife. As we left, we left the program with the valuable skills, memories and appreciation for service dogs.
I’m greatly looking forward to having the dogs here and really miss Whisper’s company and learning alongside her.
Thank you to Imvelo Safari Lodges for giving me the opportunity to attend this training and to Paramount K9 Solutions for providing me with important new skills.
Bringing in Ragnar and Whisper to Hwange for the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative and then maintaining training standards and ensuring the dogs are kept healthy and safe requires funds. We are looking for support from partners and donors for this project. Thank you for your interest! If you would like to support this cause please get in touch with us here
For more information about the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative, contact us here