Through the Eyes of a Ranger is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to help protect vulnerable animals from annihilation by poachers. In a part of Africa that suffers from poaching the most, lies an anti-poaching organisation in wait with a powerful force: dogs. In this wild and unforgiving environment, a small yet well-equipped team of field rangers and their canine partners, are training the next generation of dogs to protect.
Through the Eyes of a Ranger is a documentary I directed (release date 2020), shot on location in South Africa. It explores the struggle that South African rangers are facing in the battle with the illegal wildlife trade. In recent years, rangers have adopted one of the most effective, yet strikingly low-cost resources: dogs.
Why dogs? A single dog can secure a wildlife habitat of up to 32 sq km with the same search capabilities of up to 60 rangers covering the same ground over the same time. Their superior sense of smell also makes them better equipped to track at night and cover more ground, which is the poacher’s preferred time to kill. When chasing the suspect, they can run at 32km per hour, in terrain that is often difficult to reach by vehicle. Once apprehending the suspect, they can exert 240psi of bite pressure. Most importantly, they cannot be corrupted or bribed. Their loyalty will never fail a ranger whilst out in the bush.
An official statement by South Africa National Parks said, “Over the past 10 months the canine units have successfully tracked and taken down over 90% of the poachers arrested in the Kruger National Park.” Theresa Sowry from Southern African Wildlife College said, “It takes a field ranger follow up from a 3-5% success rate to a 60-80% success rate, using line dogs and free-tracking dogs”.
I was able to make my documentary thanks to the access to anti-poaching canine units given to me by an amazing, not-for-profit organisation called K94A.
The mission of K94A is to halt the demise of endangered wildlife in Africa and around the world. Through the training of specialized dogs and their ranger-handlers, creating elite and highly effective Wildlife Protection Canine Units, they help protect vulnerable animals from annihilation by poachers. In conjunction with this work, they have educational programmes - from pre-school to university - aimed at teaching the fundamentals of wildlife appreciation and conservation to the next generation.