BY STYLE CORRESPONDENT
The strong bond between Akashinga ranger Tracy Basarokwe and Katana, the two-year-old Belgian Malinois tracker dog that works with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) in the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe, is unmissable.
The pair along with ranger Future Sibanda make up the IAPF canine unit at Phundundu wildlife reserve, with the deployment of elite, highly trained, specialised working dog units is increasingly being used in conservation.
They act as both a deterrent to poachers and as another tool for detecting and catching them.
Basarokwe said since Katana joined the IAPF 18 months ago she has caught a number of poachers by following their tracks, allowing rangers to make an arrest.
“Katana is also very playful. She likes to play with her tennis ball with us. She also likes to swim, but mostly Katana is very, very good at tracking,” Basarokwe said.
“Her favourite food is dog biscuits. She is intelligent, a hard worker, friendly and very protective over us, her handlers.”
IAPF CEO and founder Damien Mander said canine units were an extremely useful as part of the organisation’s operations, with the use of intelligence allowing the limited resources to be put in the most effective places.
“When the rangers come across tracks of poachers — sometimes those tracks may be an hour old, sometimes they may be a day old – and the use of canines such as Katana allow us to be able to follow those tracks a lot faster,” Mander said.
“Katana’s work can hopefully close the distance between our ranger teams and the people that have made incursions into our areas which are until we know otherwise are always presumed to be poachers.”
The IAPF’s canine unit, sponsored by Vianna von Weyhausen, founder and CEO Canines for Africa, was established in 2019 after Katana and her handlers trained at K9 Conservation in South Africa. They receive ongoing training from Take Action Zimbabwe.