Dr. Marlene Zähner has been training police and search and rescue (SAR) dog handlers for over 20 years. She is the managing director of the Swiss Foundation for the Well-Being of Dogs (www.certodog.ch) and director of Farmersplace AG (www.farmersplace.ch ). Trained as a veterinary surgeon, Marlene is best known for her expertise in man-trailing and is sought the world over to train law enforcement on how to use bloodhounds for crime scene investigation (CSI) and tracking people. She also founded the internationally recognized National Bloodhound Association of Switzerland (www.nbas.ch). Although Marlene has worked internationally, including in South Africa, she was quite surprised when Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo sought her help.
She was approached by Dr. Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden of Virunga National Park, and asked if she could help the park build a special canine unit to combat poaching in the park. Marlene was very skeptical about using bloodhounds to search for poachers in the central African state, but nonetheless, decided to explore the concept.
In February 2011, after intensive preparations, Marlene traveled to Congo with Robert Williams, a member of the Virunga team who is based in Colorado. Together they brought six bloodhound puppies to park headquarters in Rumangabo. Since then, Marlene and three colleagues from the German police have been traveling back and forth to Congo to train Virunga's canine units.