The beauty of the beasts | DW Documentary


Swiss vet Marlene Zähner trains dogs to fight poaching in the Congo. The game population in the Virunga National Park has already been decimated by up to 95 percent. Gorillas in particular are facing extinction.

Marlene Zähner is an internationally sought after mantrailing specialist – in other words, she trains bloodhounds and their handlers to track down criminals. Eight years ago she received an unexpected phone call from the Congo: The director of the Virunga National Park needed her help. Initially skeptical, she eventually agreed to make her first trip into the heart of the conflict zone.

Marlene Zähner has her work cutout, because the park’s gamekeepers have little experience in dealing with big dogs and are afraid of them. In spite of the dangers, she travels to the Congo six times a year to advance the anti-poaching project. Christian Shamavu is the first Congolese dog handler to be trained by Marlene. Every day he risks his life to protect the park. At least 175 people have died in the fight against poaching there over the last ten years.

Jean-Pierre Jacot, a retired psychiatrist from Bern, has written a children’s comic book about this courageous woman and her dog unit. He takes it into the surrounding schools to teach children about poaching. Marlene, Christian and Jean-Pierre all have a common goal: They want to preserve the mystique and biodiversity of Africa’s oldest national park for future generations.


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