Small World

A Canine Force to Sniff out Poachers

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State governments are using German Shepherds to nab criminals involved in the illicit wildlife trade
There has always been a close connection between hounds and hunting, but now there is a role reversal of sorts. Instead of assisting in hunts, the hounds will hunt for the hunters. Recently, 14 dogs were inducted into seven state forest departments at a ceremony in Bhopal to combat wildlife crime. An initiative of the World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (or Traffic), these German Shepherds, raised and trained by police personnel of the 23rd battalion of the Special Armed Reserve Forces, Bhopal, have been trained to perform dual roles as sniffer-tracker dogs. The Forest departments of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Karnataka have also inducted them into their forces.

“They are trained to move silently in thick vegetation and help their handlers surprise poachers. They can sniff out trade in tiger bones and other animal parts,’’ says Dhruba Dutta of Traffic, who oversees the programme. Says Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF- India, “Poachers have been employing new methods and technology that are a major challenge to state forest departments. Trained sniffer dogs will enhance their preparedness.’’

Acquired when they are around six months old, the dogs are trained for nine months. They can sniff out wildlife products such as tiger and leopard bones, skin and meat, bear bile, ivory, deer meat, live birds, certain types of snakes, porcupines and even concealed weapons carried by poachers.

Dutta says they are getting enquiries from other states too. “We already have three states interested. Ideally, we would like to start training at least 10 dogs per batch, as it is a long process,’’ he adds. According to Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head of Traffic, “Our vision is to deploy at least four-five dogs in each state to boost wildlife protection and aid conservation efforts.”