About 50 sniffer dogs deployed in six African countries are trained to sniff out contraband that includes elephant tusks and rhino horns.
With poachers upping their game, armed with military-style weapons and shooting their prey from helicopters, something had to be done.
African Sniffer Dog Program
This program of using dogs to stop poaching began in 2011. Funded by the African Wildlife Foundation, the Canines for Conservation has helped to seize about 400 illegal wildlife products.
Rangers are now armed with dog handling skills and matched with canine partners to catch poachers with their “prize,”seize the items, and arrest them.
The dog handlers are specially trained to care for and respect these incredible dogs which are brought in from different countries in Europe.
Training African Sniffer Dogs
Full training of these dogs to prepare them for detection of wildlife products is about five months.
They look for dogs that are friendly enough to work with various dog handlers. They choose mostly Springer Spaniels, which are friendly and have good noses, and Belgian Malinois, which are extremely intelligent and are capable of dealing with the African heat.
Either breed is acceptable because they both enjoy keeping busy.
The most difficult items for the dogs to detect is the elephant ivory.
Also, these miracle dogs are taught to detect lion teeth and bones that are in high demand for use in Chinese medicine.
The wildlife products are always cleverly hidden to disguise any scent that may attract the sniffer dogs. Poachers use coffee and wrap the items in layers of plastic and foil paper.
The sniffer dogs, once fully trained, sniff cargo and luggage for ivory and rhino horns, as well as pangolin scales.
With the dogs out sniffing cargo and luggage of international flights, trafficking has become riskier, more dangerous, and more expensive.
When the program first started, there were over 50 seizures in Nairobi’s international airport. In 2019, there were only a few! Clearly, these dogs are heroes.
Meanwhile, the heroes are well-cared for. All the dogs relax in the gardens of their kennels when they’re not working and are rewarded with dry biscuits, courtesy of Royal Canin, a supporter of the program.
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