What does it take to do a man’s job? A woman!

Meet Annetjie Mkansi, our first female dog handler.

At the young age of 27years old, Annetjie Mkansi has taken on the challenge of becoming Timbavati’s first female dog handler!

Growing up in the neighbouring community of Hlavekisa village, Annetjie had a dream to become a teacher. She thought to pursue this as her career but with her unfortunate financial circumstances at home, she needed to find work sooner than later after leaving school to support her 4 younger siblings.

In 2015, Annetjie started working at the Timbavati as an environmental monitor who was later promoted to a control room operator. Her role of keeping watch of the reserve and acting as a protector of wildlife sparked a growing interest to want to do more. In 2020 Annetjie, through the Global Conservation Corps field ranger scholarship, became a field ranger! Read more about the scholarship here.

Since then, her burning passion has pushed her even further.  In February 2021 she decided to take on the training, and in April 2021 she passed all her assessments on the first attempt. Annetjie is now a qualified dog handler in DH1-4 & DH5b.

Her skills include supervising kennels, handling patrol dogs, and long-line tracking. Annetjie has worked with different types of service dogs during the time that she was training at K9 Conservation, namely 'hot scent' tracking dogs, 'cold scent' tracking hounds, conservation dogs focussing on animal scents and patrol dogs, used to patrol and assist in the apprehension of suspects.

Annetjie was selected to become a dog handler based on her passion for dogs and her strong work ethic.

“Any person can open a learner guide on how to become a dog handler and study it, but the natural talent and way that Annetjie has with dogs isn't something that can be taught. Annetjie is empathetic, determined, and very hard-working, personality traits that will serve her well in her career” commented Anke Kruger, K9 Conservation dog trainer.

Anke stated that during Annetjie’s training course, she mentioned that one day she would love to be a dog trainer herself. This shows an incredible drive to set goals and make them achievable. Anke has no doubt that she could achieve anything that she sets her mind to.

“Being a dog handler, especially for a woman in this line of work, is extremely empowering.”- Anke Kruger, 2021.

We are excited to see Annetjie’s future unfold as a dog handler. She and her canine partner are sure to make a great impact in protecting our precious wildlife.

You can contribute and show your support to our canine unit.

Read more about our dogs here and donate where you can.