Chaka’s legacy lives on

2014-11-04 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s first tracking collar for police dogs was unveiled and field-tested in Hillcrest yesterday, triggered by the search for K9 tragic hero Chaka last month.

And the pioneering technology has been developed and built by a group of civilians who searched the river beds and bushes of Mariannhill — and who decided, there and then, that “never again” should a police dog be lost in KZN.

The “Project Chaka” prototype tested at the Shongweni K9 unit yesterday uses transmitters normally used to locate hunting falcons, hidden within home-made fabric collars.

Handlers would welcome the innovation, one police dog unit commander told The Witness and that “it wasn’t a one-off situation with Chaka. It happens a few times a year in the Durban area that a dog goes missing”.

The Rottweiler was found dead 11 days after being last seen in pursuit of a robbery suspect near a river.

Yesterday, his K9 compatriot Oscar became the first dog to wear the system in a successful trial.

Here is how ordinary Highway suburbanites pioneered a technology breakthrough in two weeks:

• Having learned to his surprise that police had no K9 tracking devices, Queensburgh businessman Rowan Mattig mentioned to fellow searchers that he already used tracking technology for his pointers on legal hunts;

• Kloof engineering company owner Jonathan Stock, who owns a Rottweiler, followed up with Mattig, and learned that the pointer dog transmitters were too bulky for K9 dogs, who must barge through the bush in pursuit of suspects;

• The pair realised that the tiny transmitters used on falcons by Mattig and other falconry enthusiasts were the right size for SAPS dogs, and had the right range for handlers. They can also tell whether a bird is moving or stationary , which is very useful information when looking for a police dog, said Mattig.

• Stock found that new collars would have to be designed, as transponders could not attach to the K9 choke chain collar;

• Sam Shallcross — a Kloof resident who normally sews baby toys and wedding décor — stepped in to help last week. Yesterday, she presented Stock with a specialised, ultra-strong fabric dog collar with pouches for the transponder and its tiny, paper clip-like aerial.

Shallcross’s husband, Malcolm — who owns a construction business — has agreed to erect a memorial wall for Chaka and other fallen dogs at the Shongweni K9 unit.

Stock, who took a week’s leave to join the search for Chaka, said: “The response has been amazing.

“People really do appreciate the service these dogs do for us, and we think this will make a difference. It could even help locate handlers who are injured in the field.”

chairperson of the Kloof CPF Corné Broodryk said some R30 000 would need to be raised for the first 10 collars, but that the project had already found support from Blue Security’s charity arm, which was co-ordinating donations.

Broodryk said 12-year-old Tristan Quibell, who donated Chaka to the SAPS, had agreed to be an “amabassador” for the campaign.


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