We began building a special task force of rangers to fight poaching in the Virunga National Park in 2011. Together with their specially trained dogs the rangers make a significant contribution to controlling poaching in the region.
The rangers of the Congohound Unit have been trained to do police work and investigate the scenes of poaching crimes. With the help of their specially trained dogs they also trail poachers and find hidden weapons and ivory in vehicles, buildings or in open terrain. The dogs are kept in a comfortable kennel compound at the park’s headquarters in Rumangabo, where eight rangers take care of them around the clock. A specially modified vehicle is used to transport the dogs. The biggest part of the park’s elephant population lives in the savanna at the center of the park and it can take up to a day to get to the stations in that area from the park headquarters. This means that the response time for poaching crimes is often too long. To improve this situation and facilitate a more timely response we are trying to deploy a team of rangers and dogs at each station, using a rotation system. This will make it necessary to have one vehicle per station / team to transport the dogs to the respective deployment sites. Virunga is located in the so-called Tsetse Belt (an area with large populations of tsetse flies, which transmit sleeping sickness), which means that our dogs have an elevated risk of contracting sleeping sickness (tryponosomiasis), especially in the ranger stations at lower sea level and during deployments. This disease is fatal for dogs. In order to protect our dogs we are therefore planning to put up tsetse traps and build specially protected kennel compounds in the five ranger stations where the dogs will spend much time.