Virunga National Park with its unique mountain gorillas is in danger: Rebels and poachers are threatening this paradise in the Congo. Veterinarian Marlene Zähner trains rangers and highly specialised dogs to track down poachers.

In Virunga National Park in the Congo, rangers fight tirelessly against the many poachers with the help of a highly specialised team of dogs. The park’s game population has already been decimated by 95%. Mountain gorillas are particularly threatened by extinction. Eight years ago, the director of the national park called on the help of Swiss veterinarian Marlene Zähner, an internationally sought-after specialist in mantrailing. Since taking up her post, the dedicated nature conservationist has been responsible for training a team of bloodhounds and their handlers to track down poachers. But this has proven difficult, because the park’s gamekeepers do not have any experience in dealing with dogs and are afraid of the large animals. They call them “Simba”, which means lion in Swahili. Conflicts simmering just below the surface break out, and Zähner finds herself caught between warlike fronts. Six times a year, Zähner travels to the Congo for two weeks to press ahead with the anti-poacher project. She and the rangers have a common goal: to preserve for future generations the mystique and biodiversity of Africa’s oldest national park, home to the last surviving mountain gorillas, okapis and forest elephants.