How K9's are critical in the War against illegal wildlife poaching throughout Africa

We live in a time where conflict is all around us, both domestically and abroad. We’re all too familiar with local crimes, burglary, and even murder which is a daily occurrence all throughout the streets of the United States. Internationally we face broader terrorist threats from the likes of ISIS and al-Qaida, with growing cybersecurity and military concerns posed by Beijing and Moscow. We have grown accustomed to these events, with soundbites digging into our brains like

angry ear worms during the nightly news. We typically go about eating our dinner and move on to the next subject. However, there’s another global threat taking place that we’re not talking about and that is certainly not getting the attention it deserves. It too involves large, well organized, international crime syndicates. They move millions of dollars in illegal goods and will eliminate any threat that gets in the way of their murderous crimes. I’m talking about the well-armed, well-funded poachers killing our elephant, rhino, and lion populations throughout the national parks and wildlife reserves in Africa.

Recently Recon K9 was contacted by Armin Winkler from Rivanna K9 Services, a very respected K9 trainer who’s credentials include working with USASOC, U.S. Rangers, U.S. Special Forces, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, along with countless law enforcement agencies and other international military teams. We don’t typically hear from Armin (he’s the strong silent type), but when we do it’s usually important. This call was important, and Armin was dead set on hooking us up on a project that was very important to him and that was supporting the Eco Defense Group and their initiative to implement K9 teams into their anti-poaching

operations on the frontlines of the rhino war in Malawi. Recon K9 spoke with Eco Defense Group president Nathan Edmondson, to learn more about the initiative and how we could be of assistance.

Edmondson stated “We’re embarking on an aggressive and targeted campaign of utilizing military grade K9 assets in the tracking and apprehension of illegal poachers in a park in Malawi. We’re in need of tactical K9 equipment that will help in the training and deployment of these Malinois with our Eco Defense Group-trained quick reaction forces.” Edmondson went onto explain their 3-phase approach. Phase 1: K9 Selection and Pre-Training that took place earlier this year in Holland with the dogs being transported to Rivvana K9 to begin training with Armin, before being shipped to Alan, the trainer on the ground guiding the project and training both dogs and Rangers in deployment and patrol capabilities.  Phase 2: On-site K9 training.  The focus of this phase is wildlife desensitization and includes bite suit training, man-tracking, handler training, and veterinary program development. This is where Recon K9 came in. 

K9 on sleeve

“The environment in which these dogs work is harsh, remote and we need the best and most durable equipment to support the capabilities we’re introducing.  Based on Alan and Armin’s consultation, we knew exactly which products we needed in order to get the most out the training and these two hand-selected K9s”, Nathan explained.  Phase 3: Team + Dog combined and advanced training. With the dog and handlers ready, it’s time to introduce them to the Quick Reaction Force and advance the team’s capabilities with the dog in the mix.

 As a result, Recon supplied them with our Operator tactical K9 vests which allow for fast roping, repelling, tracking, and lifting. The project lead Alan has extensive experience working with Armin and implementing our equipment in combat and counter-terrorism situations and environments.  While their tactics are heavily guarded due to the sensitive nature of their work it was imperative that the K9 equipment they used offer the broadest capabilities, durability, and breathability due to the rough and unforgiving terrain they’re up against.

The exact location of this project is currently undisclosed by Eco Defense Group, as their work involves important considerations of operational security and a close relationship with the partners and host nations whom they support.  Eco Defense Group is unique in that they operate like no other group, and where no other is invited to work, specifically on the frontlines of the rhino war where wildlife is most targeted and threatened.  Says Edmondson, “This program is an important paradigm shift indicator in African wildlife conservation, as this is an effort to get left-of-boom and prepare before the worst comes to this park and area.  Once on the back foot in counter-poaching as the syndicates gain hold, it is very difficult to get ahead.”

In addition to the fully kitted tactical vests, Recon also offered our Whisper tracking harness which is a hybrid type vest that allows for man tracking, but also offers handles in the front and back for lifting and more access points for the handler to engage the working dog. As the founder and vision guy behind the Recon K9 line of products, it’s imperative to me and to the future of our company that we focus our efforts on being good stewards to our K9 community. While we often work with struggling smaller law enforcement agencies critically needing the most basic K9 equipment like tactical dog collarsleashes, and agitation muzzles  it’s as important for us to support these broader global initiatives like what the Eco Defense Group is doing.

What we so appreciate about Eco Defense Group’s impact is that their scope of influence far exceeds just the counter-poaching initiative, as they work to collaborate with an invest in the local communities that surround the parks and reserves they guard. They’ve partnered with the By Grace Foundation to implement textile centers, employing women and educating the youth to foster stronger relationships with the Rangers while developing and manufacturing goods to enhance their varied mission sets.

If you would like to donate to the Eco Defense Group you can do so here. Should you want to help support this K9 initiative specifically, Recon K9 will provide special pricing on items like tracking long lines, tactical vests, agitation collars, lanyard ejectors and more that you can contribute to the deployment of these

Quick Reaction Force

indispensable assets. We’ll even cover the shipping necessary to get these items to the handlers in Malawi. Our hats go off to the entire Eco Defense Team and a hearty thank you to Mathilda, Eco Defense Group Vice President who met us in a parking lot to gather all the donated Recon K9 equipment and personally packed in her suitcases and delivered it to her African colleagues. It’s the sum of a lot of dedicated individuals who help make the Eco Defense Group as effective as they are. We are humbled and grateful to contribute and support this initiative the best we can. Godspeed.