Canine Unit

Our Canine Unit sniffs out poachers and wildlife offenders across the Tsavo Conservation Area.

Working with the SWT/KWS De-Snaring Teams and our Aerial Surveillance Unit, we deploy four fully trained tracker dogs (with two more new arrivals in training) and their handlers to detect illegal wildlife products, such as ivory, rhino horn, bushmeat, guns and ammunition, as well as follow poachers’ tracks.

Globally, the trade in illegal wildlife is estimated to be worth up to $20 billion. Aiding our anti-poaching and law enforcement efforts, we have specially chosen our four canines for their intelligence, athleticism and tracking ability, able to detect even the smallest traces of scent or faint footprints.

Meet some of the dogs in our Unit

Dogs of dswt

Max

Born in 2013

Breed

Belgian Malinois

Special abilities

Max is big and robust. He has great strength and loves to be mentally and physically stimulated.

Naiko

Born in 2014

Breed

Belgian Malinois

Special abilities

Naiko has great endurance and excellent concentration and focus. He is very protective of his handlers.

Tanja

Born in 2013

Breed

Belgian Malinois

Special abilities

Very loving and affectionate, Tanja has a mellow nature with great endurance.

Support our Canine Project

The Unit’s presence provides a fantastic deterrence to would-be poachers. Deployed by air, vehicle or on foot patrols and in response to intelligence or security incidents, our dogs are specially trained to track and detect in challenging environments.

Training

Training is ongoing for the dogs and their handlers. Daily tracking exercises keep protocols reinforced and regular fitness training ensures the team is fit and able to track a culprit for hours or days at a time. A typical tracking exercise first involves putting on the dog’s harness to indicate that work is about to begin. A handler will then create a trail and hide, whilst the dog seeks them out. If the dog is successful, they receive lots of praise and a treat for a job well done: a chew on their ‘kong’, a rubber toy that they each love!

On patrol

Accompanied by their handlers and rangers, the dogs are deployed by air, vehicle or foot in response to intelligence or the discovery of fresh tracks. This can include bushmeat and ivory poaching or security incidents including equipment theft. In favourable conditions, dogs can track disturbances in the ground and spoor as well as the scent of humans for up to two days. Handlers are trained to read each dog’s body language so that when the team is nearing the suspect, the Unit can remain at a safe distance as the SWT/KWS De-Snaring Teams and ground forces move in and make the arrest.

Welfare

Each day, all dogs are exercised, groomed and fed. When not tracking or on training exercises, the dogs spend plenty of time playing with their handlers and resting. Dedicated to the dogs welfare are six handlers who have all undergone first aid training to ensure they are well-equipped to respond to any call or situation. They regularly check the dogs temperatures to ensure they do not overheat in the hot climate while a vet is stationed nearby to attend to the dogs needs.

Facilities

Our dog unit is situated in the Tsavo Conservation Area and is fully secured by an electric fence which safeguards against wild animals and security threats. Purpose-built kennels provide the highest standards of care in the hot Tsavo climate; each has a back door opening into a run so the dogs can choose to be inside or out, and all are fully insect (tsetse fly) and snake proof. The site is fitted out with a kitchen, living quarters, office and veterinary laboratory. The Unit is also equipped with a specially modified Land Cruiser which is fully air-conditioned and can comfortably carry two dogs in their transportation boxes. ​​​​​​​

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