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On the scent of wildlife crime

The use of dogs in anti-poaching and law-enforcement has an increasingly proven track record of success in a number of conservation areas across Africa.

The words ‘sniffer dog’ conjure up images of beagles and spaniels at baggage carousels at airports sniffing out illicit drugs. But a dog’s nose can be trained for just about anything. Dogs working hand in paw with conservation projects are a relatively recent addition to the law enforcement strategy toolbox yet they are energetic, effective and efficient and are unmatched by any technology currently available. Dogs in Zambia are helping the fight against the trafficking of illegal wildlife products.

The last 30 years of FZS support in North Luangwa has led to the reduction in poaching of the 1980s and 1990s and the successful reintroduction to Zambia of black rhinos. But in this decade, the challenge of all that hard work is being threatened by international criminals fuelled by greed, the demand for illegal wildlife products, and links to other economically destabilising activities. The North Luangwa Conservation Programme has a proven record of good management and successful operations but new strategies and technologies are needed to upscale anti-poaching efforts, to stem the rising threat. The development of the North Luangwa Canine Unit (NLCU) is causing great excitement to counter this.

Gallery: Dogs for Conservation in action

The use of dogs in anti-poaching and law-enforcement has an increasingly proven track record of success in a number of conservation areas across Africa. Wildlife crime detection dogs operating at gates, borders and strategic road blocks can address the movement and trafficking of illegal wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horn and bush meat as well as firearms, ammunition and illegally harvested hard wood timbers.

To create the NLCU, FZS entered into an agreement with Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C) who source and train rescue dogs for wildlife crime detection in the US. They then travel with the dogs to Zambia to select, train and mentor human handlers in welfare, behaviour, training, and operations. The dogs selected by WD4C are those that have been abandoned or given over to a rescue shelter because they are unsuitable for a home environment, typically because they need high stimulus, without which they can be destructive and too boisterous or even, aggressive.

Our dogs Sara and Vicka

The NLCU has two dogs: Vicka, a two-year old female black Labrador/Malinois cross breed who was rescued from being tied up 24/7 by a family who was unable to handle her energy levels; and Sara, an almost two-year old Pit Bull/Labrador, who was very close to being euthanised after being rejected by four different homes and shelters. Giving these dogs a new purpose and a second chance at life adds an emotional dimension to their story. Now they are able to detect ivory, rhino horn, ammunition, firearms, bush meat and an endangered hardwood, and have a very important role to play in North Luangwa. They have very quickly become part of the team helping to prevent wildlife crime and we can’t wait to bring you more news of their successes in the future.

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