Botswana Turns to Trained Dogs to Protect Wildlife
Ishamael Monwametsi leads a group of park rangers from the African nation of Botswana at a training exercise in Tanzania.
The purpose of the exercise is to teach orderly, obedient behavior to the rangers and their dogs.
Commander Monwametsi, a retired crime investigator, directs 15 workers from Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks. The class has taken them two months to master.
After they complete the training, the rangers will set up their country's first canine force to fight the killing and trade of endangered wildlife.
Botswana is home to the largest remaining population of elephants in Africa.
Monwametsi says the trained dogs are the best partners in fighting illegal hunting.
"Dogs are effective because of their good sense of smell...in terms of managing the different smells," he says. If we look at human beings, he adds, (they) can easily be bribed. "You can't bribe a dog or you can't lie to a dog."
Ali Dady, an immigration officer from Tanzania, says that countries ought to cooperate to stop the illegal wildlife trade. He says people should look at endangered animals as something that needs to be protected.
"Wildlife, as a natural resource, is a gift from God and needs to be well-managed so as to contribute to the economy," Dady says. He adds that if people keep killing the animals, it will mean a drop in the number of people visiting Botswana. It will also affect our earnings, he says.
A wildlife group called the Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is working with Canine Specialist Services International in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.
On a recent day, Philip Muruthi, the lead scientist in species protection at AWF, was shown how the trained dogs react to wildlife contraband. He noted how carefully the animals carried out searches.
He says wildlife plays an important part in the ecosystems of the environment.
The ecosystem in which endangered wildlife occur provide water, clean air and these species are part of the health of that ecosystem, Muruthi says. He adds that people need the animals, and their killing must be stopped.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique already have ranger canine units at their border crossings. They have all been trained at the center in Arusha.
I'm Susan Shand.