THE SOUL TRUST AND THE “K9’s FOR CONSERVATION PROJECT”
Aim of the project
To set up a specialized dog unit for use in anti-poaching operations. The SOUL (Safeguarding Our Legacy) Trust has been formed to be the legal entity for the K9’s For Conservation project, outlined below. The Trust has a distinguished Board of Trustees that include prominent figures in the conservation, law enforcement, and legal fraternities.
To establish a canine base of operations in Zimbabwe to provide support to National Parks, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Conservancies and Trusts that are dealing with poaching issues. These canine teams will be trained at a central location and then deployed into a variety of areas to detect illegal wildlife goods and provide support in the apprehension of poachers.
The short-term goal is to build a kennel and train 3-5 handlers. With these handlers and proactive coordination with the various agencies, a flexible deployment operation can be designed and implemented to ensure that the teams increase the chances of initial success in apprehending poachers. The credibility of the teams is vital to acceptance by the various authorities that will be required to embrace these new capabilities to allow expanded areas of operations. The long-term goals are to identify key locations to deploy K9 teams on a rotary basis providing both tracking and enhanced detection support to relevant agencies. These locations will be identified as the illegal wildlife trade develops and evolves. Critical support from ZRP and NP leadership will be sought throughout the development of the program, with the goal of securing locations in critical areas to reduce reaction times.
Currently there are little to no canine resources available to the greater counter-poaching community. The few agencies that have the luxury are remotely located and lack the expertise to maximize the potential of the capabilities. Canine handling is a team requirement that requires both significant training for both the handler and the canine. A fully trained team is vastly more effective than a team that has either a well trained handler or a well trained canine. The handlers energy should be reflected in the dog which raises the point of the development of a well selected handler. This is just as important as the selection of the canine. Poachers are able to gain access and conduct operations, often successfully. Visual trackers are successful, however run into issues during inclement weather and lose momentum as light deteriorates. Canine teams can enhance the follow-up, identify start areas/break-ins and be used to provide additional evidence in the apprehension leading to longer sentences. Dogs can be trained to multi task such as identify Rhino horn, Ivory, snares, bush meat detection and track. However it is important to note that the more capabilities a dog has, the more training is required on a day to day basis to maintain the standards of efficiency.
The various capabilities are:
The canine is trained to follow a track at a basic level over 5 kilometres that is 2 hours old with 2 ninety degree turns. This capability can be deployed in one of two roles. Intelligence led entry points are identified and the canine team can be employed to track the poachers prior to them harvesting illegal goods. The team can also be used immediately after poachers have illegally harvested wildlife goods, ensuring a faster follow up element that will increase the counter poaching teams chances of apprehending the criminals.
• Area Search
The canine will search an open area for a target odour (Ivory, rhino horn) off leash under direct control of the handler. The canine will identify the target odour with a passive indication.
• Vehicle search
The canine team can be deployed to strategic areas to conduct searches of vehicles. This capability will allow the canines to provide both a visual and psychological deterrent as well as limiting access routes to poachers forcing them to find alternative means.
• Luggage search
Canine teams can be deployed to airports, bus terminals and ferry ports to conduct searches of personal belongings that may be used to transport illegal wildlife goods.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to see more information about our project outline.