IFAW Collaborates with ZimParks to Combat Wildlife Crime Using Dogs in Zimbabwe

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – In a bid to fortify efforts against wildlife crime, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has welcomed its newest recruits, two eager puppies named Themba and Wana, into the K9 unit. 

These young canines mark a significant stride in the ongoing partnership between ZimParks and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), solidified through a Conservation Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) inked in 2020. Under this agreement, over US$4 million has been allocated to bolster conservation endeavors.

The ZimParksā€“IFAW alliance stands as a beacon of collaboration, offering both financial backing and technical expertise to safeguard Zimbabwe’s rich biodiversity. With a primary focus on the protection of wildlife, preservation of ecological processes, and enhancement of human livelihoods, this partnership holds particular significance within the sprawling four million-acre landscape, a pivotal component of the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA).

The deployment of Themba and Wana within Zimbabwe’s largest nature reserve, Hwange National Park, signifies a pivotal aspect of the K9 unit’s mission: tracking potential poachers. 

However, before assuming their duties, the puppies undergo rigorous training, wherein they are conditioned to identify specific scents associated with illicit activities. Upon detection, these diligent canines are rewarded with a playful game of fetch, reinforcing their innate abilities while fostering a bond with their handlers.

Remarkably, dogs possess an unparalleled knack for countering wildlife crime, leveraging their acute olfactory senses to detect trafficked animals or illicit animal parts. Beyond their roles as cherished companions, dogs emerge as invaluable allies in the fight against environmental degradation and illicit trade.

Across the Americas, where the majestic jaguar faces escalating threats from poaching, dogs have emerged as formidable allies in safeguarding these iconic predators.

As part of IFAW’s Operation Jaguar initiative, detection dogs such as Bruce and Boris undergo specialized training to pinpoint jaguar parts concealed within shipments and cargo, thus thwarting the nefarious activities of wildlife traffickers.

In harnessing the remarkable abilities of dogs, initiatives spearheaded by organizations like IFAW and collaborations such as that between ZimParks and IFAW serve as poignant reminders of the pivotal roles animals play in conservation efforts.

From tracking poachers to intercepting illegal wildlife trade, these canine crusaders stand as a testament to the profound impact of interspecies partnerships in safeguarding our planet’s precious biodiversity.

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