Congo Hounds, DRC
Dr. Marlene Zähner of Switzerland introduced bloodhounds and springer spaniels to Virunga National Park in 2011 at the request of Emmanuel de Merode, Director of Virunga National Park, after the use of detection dogs in combating poaching had already proven effective in other African parks.
Keeping and caring for dogs in eastern Congo is a huge challenge. The canine unit’s reputation has grown so outstanding over the past few years that there is now a waiting list of rangers eager to work with dogs.
2020 - Medical care for the Congohounds - Donation of CHF 10,000
Keeping and caring for dogs in eastern Congo is a huge challenge. In 2017 we funded the construction of a new enclosure for the dogs. We now pay for the medical care of the dogs for a whole year.
2017 - New compound for the Congohounds - Donation of CHF 15,000
Keeping and caring for dogs in eastern Congo is a huge challenge. The canine unit’s reputation has grown so outstanding over the past few years that there is now a waiting list of rangers eager to work with dogs. The dogs require a new compound in order to keep them fit and healthy.
Emmanuel de Merode, Marlene Zähner - Virunga National Park
Emmanuel de Mérode has one of Africa’s most challenging jobs. As director of the 7,800-square-kilometer Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, he is responsible for the management of Africa’s oldest national park, a World Heritage Site located in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
De Mérode was born in Tunisia, raised in Kenya and trained in London as a biological anthropologist. He first arrived in DRC in 1993, and earned his Ph.D. by studying the illegal bush meat trade. Anthropologist, conservationist and pilot De Mérode took on the Virunga job in August 2008, the only foreign national to be afforded the privilege – and challenge – of running one of the world’s finest parks. He shies away from his European royal heritage and makes his home in a small tent alongside fellow rangers at the park headquarters of Rumangabo, about 40 km north of the city of Goma on the shores of Lake Kivu.
In April 2014 De Mérode was ambushed by unknown assailants while driving back during the night from Goma to park headquarters. Shot four times in the legs and stomach, he survived, and today continues to spearhead the protection of Virunga and the development of jobs in the region.
Marlene Zähner is a legend among dog trainers. Besides other things, she trains police officers and their dogs in mantrailing. Due to the individual smell, the dogs can pick up a trail even under difficult circumstances - such as contaminated roads or tracks that are hours old. Just by sniffing at an empty cartridge case for example, the bloodhounds can track the shooters many miles away.
When Emmanuel De Mérode was looking for a bloodhound squadron, he became aware of Marlene Zähner who at first was in doubt that bringing bloodhounds to the Congo was doable at all. But De Mérode insisted. Within two months Marlene Zähner gathered 6 young bloodhounds and travelled with them to the Congo to introduce them to the unsuspecting rangers and to start the training. The beginning was not easy, the rangers hardly knew how to lead a dog on a leash. However, the motivated rangers quickly learned and the training was successful: "When I was in the Congo for the first time, one or two killed elephants were found every month, now this only happens once a year."
After the first field operations the war came and lasted 18 months. Zähner was one of the three whites who stayed and treated the injured. She earned a lot of resprect and is now a full member of the Virunga community. Today she regularly travels to Virunga National Park where her foundation 'Dodo Bahati' not only helps protecting wild animals, but also supports orphans in the surrounding villages of Virunga.