ARUSHA, Tanzania, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Tebogo Mang'ombe has a messianic zeal to protect thousands of elephants that roam in the vast jungles of her native country Botswana from human predators.
The young female wildlife ranger had to overcome serious hurdles to join a profession that was largely shunned by members of her gender due to its myriad risks.
Mang'ombe was among four female rangers from Botswana who benefited from an intensive course sponsored by conservation lobbies to enhance their skills in handling sniffer dogs that have become a powerful weapon in the fight against wildlife crimes in Africa.
The ten-week course on handling canines that was sponsored by Nairobi-based conservation lobby, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), was carried out in Arusha, Tanzania.
Speaking to Xinhua on Saturday during the graduation ceremony for Botswana rangers who participated in the course, Mang'ombe vowed to utilize skills gained in handling sniffer dogs to help her native country deal with the threat of elephant poaching.
"The training on handling detection canines was enriching and I hope to apply the expertise gained after the course to fight poaching in my country more effectively," Mang'ombe said.
Fifteen Botswana wildlife rangers took part in the course under the tutelage of experts from Arusha-based Canine Specialist Services International.
The course was held against a backdrop of enthusiasm by African wildlife authorities to invest in sniffer dogs as a means to boost action on illegal trafficking of elephant tusks and rhino horns.
Mang'ombe noted that her country remained vulnerable to elephant poaching hence the need to employ new and more effective tactics to contain this menace.
"Though the levels of poaching in Botswana are relatively low, we cannot afford to take chances and will therefore go back home with the goal of ending this organized crime," said Mang'ombe.
Botswana is the fifth country in Africa to benefit from AWF sponsored training of wildlife rangers to boost their expertise in handling sniffer dogs at ports of entry to strengthen the war against trafficking.
Other African countries whose wildlife rangers have participated in the training include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique.
These countries have the highest population of elephants in the continent but are as well grappling with high levels of poaching.
Philip Muruthi, Vice President of Species Conservation at AWF, hailed capacity development for Botswana wildlife rangers, saying it will boost response to illegal trafficking of ivory in the southern African nation.
"We hope Botswana will be able to seal all loopholes exploited by criminals involved in trafficking of ivory once the detection canines are deployed at border posts," said Muruthi.
He disclosed that ten sniffer dogs highly trained on detecting contraband goods like ivory will soon be deployed to Botswana.
Botswana wildlife rangers felt emboldened to join the fight against elephant poaching in their home country upon completing the grueling canines handling course held in northern Tanzania.
Dickson Samunzala, a veteran law enforcement agent, said mastering the art of handling ferocious sniffer dogs was a monumental stride in his career.
"The most exciting part of our training was learning how to bond with the canines and taking care of them. We felt they are an indispensable partner in the fight against poaching," Samunzala said.
The senior ranger in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana vowed to utilize skills gained in the course to help his country deal with illegal trafficking of elephant tusks and rhino horns.
"Our country has declared zero tolerance to poaching and will not be transit route for ivory once we deploy sniffer dogs in every border crossing," said Samunzala.
Botswana's new generation of wildlife rangers are keen on acquiring skills in handling sniffer dogs that are currently reshaping the war against poaching in Africa.
Tshepo Baitumetse Molephe, a young female ranger, said the dogs' handling training course opened her eyes to new frontiers in wildlife management.
"I'm sure there will be a major transformation in wildlife protection in our country once we go back home to apply the skills we learnt on handling sniffer dogs," said Molephe.
Her sentiments were echoed by Ishmael Monwametsi, a commander in Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks, who said that canines are an effective and cheaper means of fighting organized crime like poaching.