KINSHASA — The Democratic Republic of Congo's famed Virunga National Park has deployed bloodhounds to track down elephant poachers, a park official said Monday.


"The first operation of the specially-trained bloodhounds was launched after a succession of elephant-poaching incidents," LuAnne Cadd, the park's public relations officer, told AFP.

"The operation lasted two days and resulted in an armed contact between park rangers and suspected elephant poachers followed by the recovery of an illegal cache of weapons," she said.

Two bloodhounds tracked the poachers, following their scent over a distance of seven kilometres. There are a total of five bloodhounds deployed to fight poaching.

Cadd said 11 elephants were killed in 2011 in Virunga and three in January and February this year.

She said the European Union-backed canine project "will have a significant impact on the poaching problem in the park, particularly in protecting the vulnerable elephant population as demands for ivory increase worldwide."

The dogs were trained for about a year in DR Congo by an expert working for a specialised facility in Switzerland.

The 7,800-square-kilometre (3,011-square-mile) park, created in 1925, is the oldest in Africa and was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

It is home to about a third of the world's population of rare mountain gorillas and also has hippopotamuses and elephants.