K9 Unit (Appa)

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K9 Unit (APPA – Our Anti-Poaching Dog))

We have a Belgian Malinois dog (named “Appa”) that was trained by the “Animals Saving Animals” team in Texas (USA) for tracking and anti-poaching work. He was delivered to us in January 2021, and he’s now based on our ship (Modoc). He is deployed in tracking people in Costa Rica’s National Parks. This is normally finding people operating illegally in the jungle, or in “Search and Rescue” (SAR) missions to locate lost or injured tourists. Appa is developing into a most extraordinary dog. He is full of personality, he’s got a hard edge to him, he’s by far the most loved crew-member, and in terms of tracking and holding people, he is outstanding.

In 2022 Appa broke his leg while training. He had surgery and there remain metal rods in his leg, however he fully recovered. In 2023 he broke a canine tooth. He has had one operation on it, however it remains to be seen if he will need a metal cap on the tooth. In 2021 we went to Galapagos to monitor the Chinese squid fleet operating in international waters. For quarantine reasons we couldn’t take Appa with us,. so he was left at a security dog traini9ng facility in Guayaquil (Ecuador). The video above is the journey from Guayaquil back to Costa Rica.

For Anti-Poaching work, a competent K9 unit (Dog and Handler) has many advantages. Firstly it can make jungle operations more effective, by locating people quickly. Many offenders that would often escape, now get apprehended. Secondly, and for a number of reasons, it makes operations safer. Consider the arrest of a poacher hunting wildlife – If caught, they face considerable punishment that can include hefty fines and imprisonment. Many potential arrests of such people has led to conflicts involving firearms, machetes and knives. A number of suspects and Rangers have been killed or badly injured over the years, and recent trends suggest this problem is getting worse. Suspects, when faced with a snarling dog on a leash, are much more likely to comply with Ranger instructions. In addition, the Rangers have greater awareness because of the dog’s ability to smell and hear people nearby. The dogs are trained to send visible cues, giving the handler an indication of how close the team is to a person being tracked. So the Ranger team is much less likely to just stumble blindly into people in the jungle, or more significantly, an ambush.

The Belgian Malinois has recently become the preferred choice of anti-poaching and law enforcement units. The dogs are extremely athletic. They are fast, powerful and agile. You’ll get an idea of this from the videos above. They are also extremely hard-working. Anti-poaching work can be gruelling, and only dogs with a strong work ethic are worth deploying in such roles. Belgian Malinois dogs have the capacity to work incredibly hard for a competent and trusted handler. They have very good noses and ears for tracking people. They are intelligent, again a trait necessary in good tracking dogs. All up, a well selected and trained Belgian Malinois dog, when combined with a competent handler, is a formidable asset in our work to protect Costa Rica’s National Parks.  If you’d like to follow the progress of Appa, then subscribe to one of our social media platforms below.

Our K9 Unit is in part sponsored by the US / UK Non-Profit called “Animals Saving Animals“.  They have trained and deployed K9 units to a number of conservation hotspots around the world, and our team is extremely grateful that they are now supporting our campaign in Costa Rica.

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