Meet Rick and Shon, the dogs who helped rescue two African grey parrots, a crocodile and turtles on a canine mission on the periphery of Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo.
The wild animals were being illegally trafficked out of the park but were sniffed out by the dogs. The turtles and the crocodile have subsequently been released back into the tributary of the Congo River. However, the African greys were in poor condition and are currently being rehabilitated at the park headquarters in Mbomo.
Wild African grey parrots are targeted for the pet trade and are trafficked from the Congo to South Africa illegally where they are then sold to breeders and exotic bird collectors around the world.
While at the park, the dogs also discovered an undisclosed amount of bushmeat that was burned on sight.
These malinois form part of a national project in its test phase as a component of the Application of Law for Fauna (PALF). Rick and Shon are used to sniff out ivory, bushmeat and weapons at the airport and various other checkpoints around the Congo.
PALF is a Congolese member of the EAGLE Network, a group of projects operating in eight African countries, aiming to ensure that environmental regulations are met, and environmental crimes follow through with legal consequences.
Zander of African Parks states that it is important to realise the difference between smuggling and transporting. Most people in the Congo are unaware bushmeat is illegal and carry small quantities of it openly – transporting it to feed their families. The problem is when people actively try hiding or disguising large amounts of meat, this is considered ‘smuggling’ and where the canine’s distinct sense of smell is used.
If the dogs are not working they are kept stimulated with obedience training or exercise. Rick is sweeter by nature and loves human company; he also pays close attention to detail. Shon is extremely athletic and loves to play all the time. Both are excellent sniffer dogs with their own personal strengths.
The malinois breed is a highly intelligent and athletic, work-orientated breed. Rick and Shon are ready to do wonders for conservation in the Congo, and there are hopes to grow the canine unit once they have succeeded in helping with more arrests and prosecutions.
PALF and African Parks, who manage Odzala-Kokoua National Park, hope to work closely with the dogs in the near future to help protect the world’s second-largest rainforest.
To read more about dogs working for conservation in Africa, click here.
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