Malawi: Building a K9 Anti-Poaching Unit

Malawi: Building a K9 Anti-Poaching Unit

Majete: A place for wildlife

In southwestern Malawi, the Majete Wildlife Reserve is a protected area for key species to thrive – but it hasn't always been that way. 

Prior to 2003, the area was a wasteland. All the wildlife had been hunted out – elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalo, and even warthog – only a few antelope remained. Poaching was a constant and deadly threat.

In 2003, African Parks took over management of the park, working in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and have since made significant strides towards restoring it. Our vets, located close by in Blantyre, have been taking part in this journey by providing expert care to wildlife as needed.

Partnership: Working together for wildlife

In 2021, we made our partnership with African Parks official. With two highly trained anti-poaching dogs, Gilly and Milo, joining the team of rangers, our vets have been recruited to support the health and well-being of the animals. We're assisting with key aspects of the animal's lives – everything from helping in selecting suitable handlers to providing the dogs with all their routine care.

READ MORE: Learn about our efforts to treat injured wildlife and track endangered species in the field.

Recruiting: Finding the right animal handlers

Before the anti-poaching dogs arrived, the most suitable dog handlers had to be selected. In order to assist the park manager to do this, five rangers spent the day at our clinic in Blantyre to help with our work – everything from cleaning the kennels to feeding and handling the dogs in the clinic.

They even observed Dr. Dagmar examine Oskar, her own dog, to understand how we check an animal's vitals and assess its overall health.

All the rangers displayed great interest and showed strong potential, so it wasn't easy for our team to select the best two for the dog handler positions.

For young visitors to the clinic that day, the rangers were a welcomed surprise. The rangers were very accommodating to the children and answered the many questions they had.

Welcome: Meeting the new recruits

In June, the long-awaited four-legged team members arrived in Malawi, all the way from Holland. Milo, a Dutch Shepherd, and Gilly, a Belgian Malinois, two highly-trained anti-poaching dogs, received a warm welcome at the Majete Wildlife Reserve. They were given comfortable kennels, space to take long runs, and small pools to cool down in, and quickly settled into their new home.

After they'd recovered from the long journey, it was time to meet their handlers. It was determined that rangers Bright and Roland were the best rangers for the job after spending time at our clinic learning about animal handling, husbandry, and welfare best practices. They made friends instantly, and although both the rangers and anti-poaching dogs have a lot to learn in the next few months, the dynamic duos are enjoying every second of their time together.

Only one month into training, Milo and Gilly have found their feet and are already excelling at training. Their favourite exercises involve the bite suit (full-body protective clothing), where they are taught how to recognise when their handler is being threatened, and how to attack. Another favourite exercise of theirs is tracking! It's no problem for them to use their heightened sense of smell to follow any track laid out by the handlers.

Milo and Gilly, now official and very important members of the team at the Majete Wildlife Reserve, will receive the best veterinary care possible, thanks to our expert vets.

Conservation through Vet Care

Did you know? Veterinary care does far more than treat injuries and disease, it prevents ecosystems from being disrupted, diseases being introduced, and stops habitats from becoming overwhelmed and overpopulated.

Donate today, and you can help provide expert veterinary care to wildlife around the world, from treating injured zebras in Malawi to caring for sick and orphaned elephants in Myanmar.

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