Launching the DSWT Tsavo Dog Unit

Published on the 1st of June, 2016

In recent years the use of dogs in anti-poaching and law-enforcement has proved to be increasingly successful especially in the fight against ivory poaching in Africa

In recent years the use of dogs in anti-poaching and law-enforcement has proved to be increasingly successful especially in the fight against ivory poaching in Africa.  Professionally trained tracker dogs are not only able to detect illegal wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horn and bush meat but they can also smell out guns and ammunition, whilst being able to follow poachers tracks on the run.

Due to the value of such dogs in curbing wildlife crime and having been requested by the Kenya Wildlife Service to support them in such projects, the DSWT has set about creating an effective Dog Unit in the Tsavo Conservation Area in support of all anti-poaching operations. After a year of meticulous preparation and hard effort this well awaited Dog Unit is due to commence operations in the coming weeks. 

During 2015 the DSWT sourced and purchased three tracker dogs from the Netherlands, which were raised and trained onsite before being relocated to a renowned Special Forces dog trainer in Tanzania. The dogs were joined in Tanzania by six DSWT rangers, who were to be their new handlers. The rangers have been put through a three-month training program to gain knowledge, skills and trust in order to become certified Dog Handlers. 

During this period of intensive training the construction of the new Dog Unit was taking place, having been sited close to the DSWT’s Kaluku field HQ on the border of Tsavo East National Park. The kennel compound for the dogs include four Kennels, a food store and equipment store, as well as outside runs. The structural design of the kennels has been done sensitively to ensure the dogs are kept in the best and healthiest condition considering the hot and harsh environment of the Tsavo area. 

Accommodation for the Dog Handlers and unit staff has likewise been completed to a high standard including a kitchen, mess area, an office and a small laboratory for the veterinary officers when onsite. To safeguard against wild animals and any potential security threats an electrical fence has also been erected surrounding the perimeter of the unit, whilst the site also had a new borehole drilled and water pump installed to service all water requirements. Solar power has been connected as well as digital radio communication to keep the unit connected at all times to the Kaluku HQ as well as all of the DSWT and KWS ground Units and the DSWT Aerial Surveillance Unit.

Once launched ultimately, a dog unit is only as effective as the logistics needed and the ranger force available to ensure the dogs are in the right place at the right time whilst captures and arrests are successfully made. The DSWT is well structured to be able to offer a platform in which to deploy the dogs and their handlers to the scene of any wildlife crime.  With an active Aerial Unit, the DSWT has back-up support of five fixed-wing aircrafts and a helicopter, whilst there is an extensive ground network of DSWT/KWS rangers and an armed Rapid Response KWS unit all on call ready to apprehend and arrest wildlife offenders.

The DSWT hopes for this new unit to be the finest of its kind. These dogs will provide enormous support towards DSWT and KWS anti-poaching efforts whilst also becoming a very intimidating factor throughout the Tsavo Conservation Area for potential offenders committing wildlife crimes, in particular ivory poachers.