Congohound Project

The Congohound dog squadron is involved in resolving various crimes, but also regularly patrols and helps secure people & transport in the Virunga National Park in Congo.



DACH / Democratic Republic of Congo



5 years

What does the project solve?

The Congohound dog squadron is involved in resolving various crimes, but also regularly patrols and helps secure people & transport in the Virunga National Park in Congo.

  • In the Virunga National Park (Congo), a special anti-poaching ranger team, the “Congohound Unit“, has been operating since 2011, which with the help of specially trained dogs, makes a significant contribution to controlling poaching. The members of the dog squad are trained to take over the police work & forensics after a crime (poaching, robbery, kidnapping, illegal deforestation, etc.) and to follow the train of criminals with the help of special dogs (Mantrailers & species protection dogs), search vehicles, buildings or the terrain for hidden weapons and ivory.

    The team was further expanded in April 2019. Under the new leader David Nezehose, the new dog handlers were promoted, and regular patrols and missions were completed.

    The dogs are kept in a well-appointed kennel building at the park's headquarters in Rumangabo and are looked after by 12 rangers around the clock. Specially modified vehicles are used to transport the dogs.

  • The Conghound Unit consists of rangers and their dogs. The dogs are selected by Marlene Zähner, the founder of Dodobahati foundation, or are bred by herself.

    1. Training of the Rangers: The rangers learn about a dog’s behavior and how to handle it, so that they become an efficient team to protect the national park and its animals from attacks.

    2. Training of the Dogs: The dogs are trained by Marlene Zähner together with the rangers to become mantrailers so that they can successfully provide their support for safety in the park.

    3. Dog & Ranger together: In the end, the dog and his ranger become a unit in order to do their best work possible even under difficult conditions in an area like Congo.

  • Above all, the Congohounds need support for medical care, which is often very poor or not at all available in the Congo. Dr. med. vet. Marlene Zähner, Swiss veterinarian and founder of the Congohounds Project, wants to set up a clinic to provide medical care for working dogs, but also for street dogs (e.g., castration projects) and wild animals.

    To make a better world for these dogs, plans include help to ensure medical care of the working dogs of the Virunga National Park, so that none of them die from banal and easily treatable illnesses due to the lack of even the simplest medical treatments. Another vital mission is neutering street dogs and cats living in the area.

  • Bonus was born in Virunga in 2014. He was the first little puppy to be raised there. At the time, dogs were fed with meat, rice and vegetables, which were enriched with a mineral vitamin powder. The diet was never optimal, especially since the dogs were worked hard, so they lost a lot of weight. In Bonus's case, it was a disaster. Within a few months, the young pup developed severe growth disorders. He had to be treated intensively.

    At the time, we started importing premia dog food. First from Kenya, then we were able to find a Royal Canin representative in Rwanda. Since then, we have had no problem feeding our dogs. A few years later, Bonus needed an emergency surgery procedure because of an intestinal blockage caused by an eaten stone. Fortunately, two vets from Rwanda were just in the provincial capital Goma. The dog was operated under very rudimentary conditions. Although this operation saved his life at the time, the massive adhesives in the abdominal cavity, caused by the poor conditions under which the dog was operated, have caused him discomfort for years. In the end, he died due to intestinal entanglement. Unfortunately, there was no vet available, and the rangers had to watch helplessly.