K9 Unit (Appa)

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.

Appa recently broke his leg during training, which has been devastating for him and the team. He has had a complex operation to repair the break by Costa Rica’s top Orthopedic vet surgeon, and he is now on 24/7 care while the bones heal. There are more details on what happened HERE, and there is also a fundrasier to help pay for Appa’s operation and treatment HERE.

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 below. 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. 


Here’s a great video of Diego, one of the more famous Anti-Poaching dogs in Africa.


This video shows you just how talented, athletic and capable these dogs are.

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