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Thursday, 15 March 2012
The National Park Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo has deployed an elite anti-poaching canine unit to track poachers.
The first operation of the specially-trained bloodhounds was launched after a succession of elephant-poaching incidents in Virunga National Park. The operation lasted two days and resulted in an armed contact between park rangers and suspected elephant poachers followed by the recovery of an illegal cache of weapons.
Through routine park aerial surveillance, the dead elephant was discovered in the savannah region on the eastern edge of the park with the tusks cut off its face. Two of the park's five bloodhounds were deployed by air with their handlers, together with a trained ranger protection unit.
Once at the scene, they followed the scent for 7km - directly towards a small fishing village. A unit of rangers patrolled the area through the night, and in the early morning intercepted a group of suspects who opened fire.
After a short exchange, the suspects fled leaving their rifles on the scene. The park will continue the investigation.
Park authorities believe the new bloodhound programme will have a significant impact on the poaching problem in the park, particularly in protecting the vulnerable elephant population as demands for ivory increase worldwide.
Dr Emmanuel de Merode, the park's chief warden, commented on the operation saying: ‘We are extremely pleased with the outcome. After a year of intensive training, both the hounds and the rangers proved to be very effective weapons against ivory poachers.'
The training was carried out by a specialised Swiss centre, which has trained many of the police canine units in Europe and North America.
Dr Marlene Zähner, who leads the training programme, said: ‘The rangers of Virunga National Park are exceptionally motivated, professional, and talented men who have learned the skills as fast and effectively as any of the teams I have trained elsewhere in the world. I feel very proud of their achievements.'
The canine unit will continue to be deployed in Virunga National Park as part of a European Union funded programme to protect the park's exceptional wildlife.
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Posted by Pure Zanzibar at 12:40