Malawi’s oldest and largest protected area, the Nyika National Park protects a unique wilderness area and is a critical water catchment area for the country. The park is also a refuge for several rare endemic animal species, along with zebra, eland, warthog, bushbuck, duiker, leopard and elephant. In order to protect this abundant wildlife as well as precious flora in the park, there has been an increase in protected area management. Part of Peace Parks and partners’ initiatives in Nyika National Park and funded by KfW, this has helped to increase the populations of key species. Unfortunately, this also means an increase in poaching activities.
The tracker dogs Jungle, Nkonzo and AK, have been transferred from Limpopo National Park Nyika National Park in order to form part of the quick reaction force that will boost the effectiveness of anti-poaching operations in Nyika. It will give the field rangers the critical support they need.
Gabriel, a Peace Parks canine handler, heads up the operation to ensure the dogs are fit for their new roles in the park and to pass on his wealth of knowledge to the Nyika dog handlers. As the hills, grasslands, forests and streams are new territory for the dogs the rangers ensure they have plenty of time to explore. The more the dogs learn about the terrain, the more useful they will be when it comes to anti-poaching activities.
One day, Gabriel leads the patrol and both rangers and dogs cover 15 kilometres along miombo scrubland and gushing streams. The next day, Sean van Niekerk, Peace Parks’ Counter-Poaching Manager assists in the training by setting out on a trail leaving his scent for the dogs to follow. Each dog takes its turn in trying to locate Sean’s whereabouts. This is not as easy as it sounds as the woodlands are alive with smells from all kinds of animals and plants. The dogs have to use their highly developed sense of smell to locate him. Luckily these dogs’ sense of smell is between an estimated 10 000 and 100 000 times more sensitive than ours, making them the perfect canines for tracking down poachers, and a sneaky Sean, as they can detect even the faintest of scent trails in the bush. Keep watching Peace Parks TV to follow the dogs as they combat wildlife crime in Nyika National Park.