Supreme honour for South Africa’s most successful poacher-hunting dog
07 January 2016
‘K9 Killer’ receives PDSA Gold Medal - the animals’ George Cross
A dog risking his life in the battle to save the African Rhinoceros from extinction has been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal* – recognised worldwide as the animals’ George Cross.
In the past four years, the acute tracking skills of five-year-old K9 Killer, a Belgian Malinois, have led to the arrests of 115 poachers; making him the most successful dog working with Kruger National Park’s Special Operations Team.
Alongside handler Amos Mzimba, Killer is flown in by helicopter to track and apprehend armed poachers when they are sighted, or a dead rhino is discovered.
Comedian, Hollywood actor and animal welfare advocate Ricky Gervais announced K9 Killer’s award, on behalf of PDSA, in a special video released on social media last night.
The PDSA Gold Medal is the highest honour a civilian animal can receive for bravery and devotion. Killer is only the 24th PDSA Gold Medal recipient worldwide, since the award was instituted in 2001.
Both Killer and handler Amos can be deployed deep inside Kruger National Park several times a day, and Killer’s tracking and early detection of suspects is paramount to keeping Amos and the rest of the team safe from harm.
On one occasion, following a sighting of poachers in the infamous Bangu area, close to the border of Mozambique, Killer and Amos were flown in as part of a four-strong team including South African Defence Force personnel. While trying to find a spoor to track, shots were fired and, in the confusion that followed, Killer and Amos became separated from the main group.
Killer picked up a spoor to track the suspects, giving him and Amos the upper hand over the poachers. As the determined dog and handler followed the suspects to the bottom of a cliff, they spotted someone just in front of them. Amos shouted to the suspect to surrender, but heard a heavy calibre rifle shot and the bullet passing close to his head. He returned fire to save his and Killer’s lives before apprehending two other suspects.
Thanks to Killer’s tracking skills, 115 arrests have been made to date, but the fight against poaching continues.
Killer’s handler, Amos Mzimba, said: “It is an honour to have Killer by my side. It means a lot that he has been recognised for his skills and assistance in tracking and arresting poachers. Thanks to him, we are arresting more poachers, but there is a lot more to be done if we are to save the rhino from extinction. Killer is invaluable in achieving that.”
PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “The PDSA Gold Medal recognises extraordinary acts of courage and dedication in life-threatening situations, and Killer is indeed a worthy recipient. His contribution to saving the rhino population has been truly remarkable. His track-record is astounding and we are honoured to recognise his fantastic work in this way.”
Killer’s award was formally presented by Ricky Gervais, who said: “Killer does fantastic work in the Kruger National Park. Rhino’s are wonderful creatures that are being killed in their hundreds by these poachers. Killer and his colleagues are fighting back. He helped capture dozens of poachers in the last year alone, thanks to his amazing courage and dedication. He’s making a huge contribution to rhino protection in South Africa.”
With the number of rhino killings increasing from 448 in 2011 to 1215 in 2014, Killer is an integral part of the fight against poaching.
*Please refer to the award by its full title - the PDSA Gold Medal