This project is ready to go as soon as we have collected enough donations to fund it. It is completely feasible that the dogs and handlers could be trained and certified by June and on patrol by July 2022. DONATE

Your contributions to the ConservationK9 campaign will be used directly for the purchase of the two canines, train the canines and their handlers, obtain the necessary certifications, provide a year of food and vet care, purchase GPS tracking collars and receivers, supply training equipment, transportation carriers, field equipment, emergency canine first aid kits, and build their kennels on the reserve.

Everyone on the ProjectThorn team volunteer their time and receive no compensation from donated funds.

There are a number of answers to this question.

What it boils down to is that we saw a way that we could help make a significant change in the protection of the rhino and other poached species.

It is a goal within reach. The amount isn’t so large that it is unachievable, yet it is still a stretch to reach.

Also, canines are proven to be an effective deterrent to poachers. A poacher can’t hide in the cover of dark from a canine’s nose –– a nose that can also be used to find weapons, locates snares, detect incursions, track cold scent trails, and lead help to injured wildlife.

Canines can be highly specialized in their specific training or they can be trained for more generalized service.

We will be purchasing a Patrol Canine and a Conservation Canine.

The Patrol dog will be either a shepherd or a malinois. This canine is considered a hot-scent tracker (trail is <3 hours) and will be trained to exclusively track human suspects, detect firearms and ammunition and have the ability to restrain and detain suspects by force if required. They can also be used to perform vehicle searches to detect and seize contriband.

The Patrol Canine requires 5 levels of training and certification before being allowed to patrol.

The Conservation Canine is typically a Weimaraner (or similar breed) that is a cold scent (scent trail >3 hours) and is trained to track animals, detect animal remains and snares by scenting, to locate wounded animals and assist wildlife vets. This breed can also be used for anti-poaching patrols and suspect restraint.

The Conservation Canine requires 4 levels of training and certification before being allowed to patrol..

The complimentary skill sets of the two dogs allow them to work in tandem to track and apprehend suspects.

Our goal is to protect as many of these animals as we can through funding tangible projects to prevent poaching. And by doing so, we will help all those that depend upon the presence of the rhino in the bush to maintain biodiversity, prevent reserve incursions, and detect snares.

The handlers will be Anti-Poaching Rangers trained specifically to work with their canine partner. 

The Team at K9 Conservation requires that the reserve send multiple APU Rangers to be assessed on their ability to support, bond, and work with the individual dog. (i.e. they have to get along – just because a ranger wants to be a handler doesn’t mean they are the right partner for a particular canine).

The Ranger also needs to undertake extensive training and independent assessment.

This isn’t one of our founding principles. It has just happened to work out that way so far.

And who doesn’t love the idea of animals helping animals?

Sometimes animals are just best suited for the job. Canines see with their noses. They don’t need night vision binoculars, drones, and other special equipment to locate their target – they just have the natural ability to trail and detect.

Our last big program was to reinstate an Anti-Poaching Horse Patrol at the oldest wildlife park in all of Africa. The park was established and is credited for bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction once after a population was discovered in KwaZulu-Natal.

Why Horses? The horses move through the bush terrain quickly, efficiently, and without disturbing the wildlife, which made them an important asset for the APU Rangers at Hluhluwe iMfolozi National Park.

The canines will be placed at a reserve about 2 hours north of where the horses are on patrol in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa near the border of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Mozambique.

Although the dogs will be housed and cared for by one reserve, they will be utilized across a larger territory that covers 33,000 hectares of bush territory (that is nearly 82,000 acres or the equivalent of the entire Golden Gate Recreational Area in Marin County).

The collective of reserves currently protect 120 endangered White Rhino and 25 critically endangered Black Rhino. (The Canines and Handlers would also be deployed to the Pangola area if needed which protects another 100 Rhino.)

Currently, the nearest Canine APU team is located at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi (the park where the horses are) which is too far to be effectively deployed to prevent a potential poaching incident if an incursion is detected by a Ranger on patrol.

There is good news. Though the killing hasn’t stopped since the peak in 2015, the number of poached animals annually has dropped.

This isn’t reason to be complacent. Part of the decline is attributed to the overall decrease in population, the increased anti-poaching efforts and enforcement, the reduced international travel due to Covid making it more difficult to transport the horn out of South Africa, and the decline in price.

The decline in price should be celebrated. Perhaps all the focus that has been placed on educational efforts are finally being heard by the end buyers. It could also be that the penalties of trafficking, reselling, and possession have reduced demand. Regardless of the reason, if the price of horn drops, it will be less attractive of a risk for poachers.

There are a number of articles about canines working in conservation. Here are a couple.

NPR highlighted the role of canines in protecting rhino on World Ranger Day. To read or listen >>

This Metro article talks about the training, working environment, and retirement for an APU canine named Shinga. The article contains a short video of Shinga’s training.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs produced a full report including effective APU guidelines. A large section outlines the important roles canines and horses fill in APU units. Read more >>


We will need to be wise with every last dollar to accomplish the ConservationK9 Project but we have run the numbers with the trainers and the reserve where the dogs will be on patrol and everyone is onboard to make this happen.

We are helped by the strength of the dollar, your money goes a very long way in South Africa at the moment.

The care of the canines will become the responsibility of the reserve after the first year.

There are a few key reason that necessitate the partnership.

First of all is that we are here and it is difficult to provide oversight from 9 time zones away. We have worked with 12 Hours on both the Hornucopia Horse Patrol and for the RhinoArt project. They are a trusted partner that shares our philosophy of finding tangible projects to prevent poaching.

Second, since donations are tax deductible we need to insure that the funds are being used as intended. By partnering with an accredited South African NPO, the transfer of funds adheres to US tax code.

(NPO – Non Profit Organization)

Success will be measured in the reduction of poaching attempts and reserve incursions, apprehension of poachers, the number of snares located, and by the increased safety of the rangers.

Yes! We have partnered with Inquiring Systems, Inc as our nonprofit 501c3 fiscal sponsor to accept tax deductible donations.

Please consider making a donation.

This project has always been about spreading awareness about the plight of the rhino and other poached and trafficked wildlife. Please share this project on social media.

If you know of people who work in journalism, the canine industry, tourism, wildlife conservation, the arts etc. please make them aware of this project.

Long-term, we would like to establish an independent non-profit organization to continue anti-poaching conservation efforts. If you have experience with start-up non-profit organizations we would greatly appreciate your assistance.

Contact the ProjectThorn team with ideas of how you would like to help.

If you have additional questions or would like to suggest an addition, please do not hesitate to contact us either via email or the Connect page on our website.