NAIROBI, Kenya — The latest weapon in the fight against poachers in eastern Congo's Virunga National Park is four-legged and slobbering, but it works.
A team of five bloodhounds make up Virunga's newly formed "elite canine unit" brought in to help protect the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, okapi and other animals that live in the 3,000 square mile park.
The "Congohounds" program as it has been dubbed began last year with the arrival and training of the dogs and earlier this month two of them carried out their first operation helping to track a gang of poachers thought to be responsible for the killing of a male elephant which had its tusks hacked from its face.
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The two-day operation ended with a shoot-out between park rangers and the suspected poachers who were tracked by the dogs. Although the suspects escaped a cache of weapons was found and confiscated.
"We are extremely pleased with the outcome. After a year of intensive training, both the hounds and the rangers proved to be a very effective weapon against ivory poachers," said Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga's chief warden.
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