On a recent trip to the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, Peace Parks Foundation’s Project Systems and Compliance Manager, Stefan van Zyl, and Project Compliance Coordinator, Kelly Human, are visiting Nyika National Park as part of a law enforcement assessment. At the top of their priority list was, of course, meeting AK, Jungle and Nkonzo, who form part of the Rapid Response Unit.

These four-legged sidekicks are an integral part of anti-poaching operations, not only in Nyika but across many parts of Africa. Using their highly developed sense of smell, tracker dogs like Jungle, Nkonzo, and AK give the field rangers the critical support needed when tracking potential illegal activity out in the field.

Taking The Reigns

Dog handlers take great care when looking after their furry colleagues. Due to the tough, thickly wooded conditions and vast distances that the rapid response unit must often deal with in Nyika National Park, it is essential that both ranger and canine remain fit. Today, Stefan has taken the reigns, quite literally, tasking himself with taking AK for a walk – however, from our perspective, it seems that AK is taking Stefan for a walk instead.

How Do The Dogs Help?

After getting their steps in for the day, Kelly and Stefan meet with Nyika’s Counter-Poaching Unit Coordinator, Norman English, who takes some time to introduce the dogs and explain how they usually operate.

Once the rangers come across suspicious activity within the park’s boundaries, they will get the dogs on the spoor, or scent, of the suspects. The dogs are usually attached to their handlers with a line and harness and follow the scent through the bush to track down where the suspected poachers might be hiding.  The dogs have also been trained in ‘off-leash’ free-running, which requires aerial support because of how fast these canines run. The rangers will keep a close eye on the dogs from the air, ensuring they don’t run into dangers, such as a pride of lions. As avid dog lovers, both Kelly and Stefan thoroughly enjoy meeting the canine team and getting a brief sense of what it would be like to work with these amazing animals. Peace Parks Foundation is grateful to Turing Foundation and KfW Development Bank for their generous assistance in supporting Nyika’s counter-poaching operations.