Detector dog Azaro is a master of his trade - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Detector dog Azaro is a master of his trade

Avatar of inke inke - 17. January 2018 - Environment

Detector dog Azaro has found a piece of raw ivory in a bush and now watches his handler, Bernd Brell, attentively. Brell and the Belgian Shepherd are stationed in Etosha National Park and have an important role in the battle against the poaching of endangered animal species.

Dirk Heinrich

It’s a scorching day in Etosha National Park. Azaro, a Belgian Shepherd dog, is on duty in the parched landscape. He is about to pass a sizable dense bush when he suddenly pauses for a moment, sniffs the air and then crawls underneath the bush to the other side. There he barks and sits. A small piece of raw ivory is lying between the dry leaves. Dog handler Bernd Brell praises the faithful four-legged detector dog and rewards him with a ball to play with.  

Azaro, a little less than four years old, was trained by a private company in the vicinity of Johannesburg in South Africa to sniff out ivory, rhino horn, ammunitions and weapons. A few months ago, after the dog had completed his training, it was Bernd Brell’s turn to learn the ropes in Johannesburg. Two intensive weeks followed, during which the two got acquainted with each other. Then it was time for the transfer to Etosha National Park where the training continued for another three weeks. Azaro and Brell are assessed every six months by experts of the South African training centre. There is also further training provided for the dog and his handler. Bernd Brell works for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Previously he was a programme manager of the Save the Rhino Trust.

The Hunters United Against Poaching Trust (HUAP) of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) donated N$ 30,000 to purchase the detector dog for the Ministry of Environment because the ministry lacked the financial means due to cutbacks and budget restraints. In the light of increased rhino and elephant poaching, however, it was vital to strengthen anti-poaching activities on all levels.

During the relatively short period that they have been stationed in Etosha National Park, Azaro and dog handler Brell’s expertise have been called upon numerous times – at crime scenes, to track poachers and inspect suspicious vehicles. The duo has also rendered valuable services in the Kunene Region and at roadblocks. “If need be, we can be deployed anywhere in the country”, says Brell.

The head of the newly established anti-poaching unit in the Ministry of Environment, retired police inspector Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, is full of praise for the detector dog. If the means were available the anti-poaching unit would like to start its own dog unit to reinforce the battle against poachers, in which dogs have been proven very successful.

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