Anti-poaching canine units
Detection and tracking dogs are becoming increasingly important for anti-poaching units across Africa. Their proven effectiveness has led to the number of canine units across the continent rising, but many of these programmes work in isolation from each other, and finding the opportunities to learn best practice and meet other teams is tough. To address this challenge, since 2018, we’ve helped to fund, coordinate and facilitate workshops in South Africa, Kenya and Zambia, bringing canine teams and experts together. In addition, we support the operational costs of a number of canine units that are integral parts of our programme partners’ anti-poaching efforts in Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.
Poaching and wildlife trafficking are lucrative forms of transnational organised crime, decimating populations of rhinos and other wildlife across Africa. To counter these threats, we’ve got to use every tool in the toolbox, deploying as many strategies as possible to make sure rhinos stay safe. With their incredible senses, loyalty, and training ability, dogs have proven to be highly effective team members, helping law enforcement teams to reduce crime all over the world. And when it comes to conservation, particularly in anti-poaching efforts, the situation is no different.
Owing to their excellent sense of smell, dogs have proven to be a highly effective part of anti-poaching units. Working closely alongside their handlers, dogs are able to track a poacher’s scent for miles, as well as detecting illegal wildlife products found in vehicles and homes. This gives teams the ability to find and stop suspected poachers and traffickers, gaining evidence that can lead to successful convictions later on.
Beyond their physical skills, dogs have another positive attribute for anti-poaching units: they are not corruptible. If they find an illegal substance, they will indicate so, regardless of who the suspect is.
What did this workshop include?
During the three workshops held so far, we have addressed a number of key issues, including:
- canine basics; starting and maintaining healthy dog squads, developing kennels, nutrition and veterinary care
- handler and dog training; improving skills for handlers and their detection and / or tracking dogs, and motivating handlers to do their jobs well despite the inevitable challenges
- using canine evidence; making the best use of evidence found by canine units to assist law enforcement and help put criminals behind bars
Dogs are a key part of the anti-poaching work at North Luangwa Conservation Programme, Zambia
Dog squads are increasingly important to stop poaching.
Handlers and their dogs have a very close relationship, one that's essential for trust and effectiveness.
"Dogs are very friendly and a pleasure to work with. They can help us track down and detect bad people, and therefore are an incredibly important tool in our efforts, and we work together as one unit to be even more effective. We are training and improving every day, and are grateful for being able to attend the Working Dog Workshop again this year in Nairobi; this is a great opportunity to network, and gain more skills, especially in tracking and law enforcement work."
Joseph Piroris, Canine Unit Commander, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
We support the work of canine units across Africa by lending our logistical and facilitation skills and expertise with organising annual working dog workshops, which bring together canine experts to share knowledge, gain experience and learn techniques to improve dog welfare in the field, boost evidence collection and increase tracking capabilities. In turn, this is helping to combat rhino poaching across Africa. In supporting the annual workshop and canine units, we are empowering and developing anti-poaching units across the continent.
Previously, through a grant from United States Fish and Wildlife Service, we have also provided support with technical expertise via the role of a Regional Canine Coordinator based in South Africa.