A Team of Bloodhounds Protecting Africa’s Wildlife

About the Project

congohounds with rangersBloodhound dogs are famous for their sense of smell and ability to follow a scent trail. Able to identify a single scent in five million, bloodhounds are uniquely suited to track humans in difficult terrain.

Dr. Marlene Zähner and other internationally recognized experts in the field of “man-trailing” and crime scene investigation have created Congo’s first man-trailing program in Virunga National Park using bloodhounds. The goal of the program is to better protect the park’s critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife from poachers, and in general, help enforce the rule of law, which is critical to re-establishing Virunga’s tourism trade. The program will also greatly improve the park’s ability to quickly locate severely injured rangers.

Virunga National Park is looking to the international community to help sustain this vital program.

Your donations make a difference. Give what you can.

Marlene Zähner – Project Leader

congohounds on alert

“I’ve owned bloodhound dogs for the last 37 years – almost all my life,” says Marlene Zähner, “and worked at training them for the last 20 years. Bloodhounds are my favorite kind of dog.”

It would be nice if we could get Marlene to write about herself and tell you all her qualifications for being in charge of this amazing program, but getting this information out of her is difficult. She is one of the best bloodhound trainers in the world, yet she would never say so. Marlene brought man-trailing bloodhound programs to Europe. Prior to that, there was nothing. She’s been training European police and search-and-rescue teams for the last 15 years and is a veterinary surgeon. Marlene also owns and operates a center for human/animal relationships.

Marlene is, however, very willing to tell you why she loves bloodhounds.

“They’re independent and when they focus on a goal, they achieve it. They have strong personalities, so they don’t really need to be aggressive. They’re very affectionate, but not in a dependent way.” Marlene confesses, “We share characteristics. But you know, they say that dogs and owners start to look alike… well, I certainly hope not!”

The dogs are nearing the end of their formal training, but their human handlers will train for years to come. “The dogs are bred to do this, so it’s easier for them. Humans take much longer to learn it.”

Marlene fully believes in the success of the program and has completely reshuffled her life in order to do this work in Virunga. “If Congohounds continues like this, we will succeed. The handlers are all very willing, really listening, strongly motivated, and have a talent with animals. In this place, there’s discipline, something you don’t always find in other places.”

She adds, “After all these years, I’m still impressed with what bloodhounds can do. But, I still don’t know how they do it.”

News from the Congohounds


Bloodhound Puppies Arrive in Congo View All

Congohounds in Virunga View All

Sniffer Dog Training