Kenya’s success fighting wildlife trafficking benefits from canine agents

At famed Maasai Mara National Park, I met a foot soldier helping Kenya fight wildlife trafficking.

Garvey doesn’t carry a gun. But he has the unique skill of sniffing out contraband from wildlife parts to weapons. He is one of the four-legged inspectors from Kenya Wildlife Service’s Canine Detection Unit.

Hearing that my travel companions were from Colorado (where Garvey is from), the wildlife ranger who handles Garvey invited us to test Garvey’s skills.

He put an ammunition cartridge in my hand and said, “Hide it. Anywhere you want.”  

I scanned the open area in front of the Mara River Gate and thought, where would a criminal hide his weapon if he tried to smuggle it?

Under the car! I stuck the cartridge on the wheel well of the Range Rover, our safari vehicle.

Garvey came out from his kennel behind the gate…at first too excited to even sit down to listen to the instructions. But once he got the go-ahead, he launched himself into the mission.

It didn’t take long.

Recently, Kenya and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding to curtail crimes against nature, from illegal logging to wildlife poaching. And during the same week that I met Garvey, four ivory smuggling attempts were foiled at Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, all thanks to the specially trained K9 inspectors deployed to key transportation hubs across Kenya. 

Using their superior sense of smell the dogs sniffed out the ivory from the luggage of four passengers, all traveling to China. Two of the suspected smugglers arrested were transiting through Kenya from Ghana and Mozambique, according to news reports.

Tougher laws, stronger penalties and stricter surveillance at key transit points in Kenya have contributed to a drop in elephant poaching in the past year.

It is imperative that Kenya’s success be replicated in other parts of Africa.

In fact, the survival of many endangered species depends on the range-transit-consuming countries on the entire wildlife trade chain to take a collective stand: zero tolerance for wildlife crime.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy