Rescue dogs have taken center stage in the fight to protect wildlife from poachers in Zambia.
The Working Dogs for Conservation program has trained the dogs to identify everything from wire snare traps, to guns and ammunition used in illegal hunting, to pangolin scales, rhino horn and ivory.
“During our work monitoring lion, cheetah, and wild dogs in Zambia, we saw the victims of poaching firsthand: elephants shot for ivory, rhinos killed for their horns, and countless animals caught in vicious traps,” the WD4C team says on its website. “We knew our dogs could help.”
The dogs, rescued and trained in the American Northwest, now live in the Luangwa Valley with their Zambian handlers. Those handlers have come to love their canine companions – Ruger, Earl, Chai, Sara and Vicka – but the dogs are always on a mission to support the work of the North and South Lwanga conservation groups.
“Our dogs have found poaching contraband that law enforcement would never have discovered without them, such as gun parts concealed in the thatched roof of a hut, or, incredibly, a tiny primer cap (used to fire a muzzle loader) that was placed in a matchbox, hidden inside a suitcase, and buried among bags and parcels in a tightly packed van,” says WD4C. “Searches like these often happen along roads or in villages, when many bystanders are watching, which adds to the dogs’ deterrence value.”
The organization also supports research and technical assistance for African communities and countries who want to adopt or expand their own canine programs to curb poaching.
To learn more about the program research, see this link.