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Wednesday
Oct212009

EU-wide project to fight illegal wildlife trade not to be sniffed at

Luggage at Frankfurt airport receives a thorough going over from one of the best wildlife detectives in the business Click photo to enlarge © FRAPORT-AG   

en Français

Frankfurt, Germany, 21 October—a year after the introduction of sniffer dogs to track down illegal wildlife products at Frankfurt airport, WWF and TRAFFIC have announced plans to extend the successful pilot project Europe-wide.

In recent months, the two specially trained dogs—Amy and Uno—have uncovered several kilogrammes of caviar, ivory figurines, handbags made of snake skin, shark fins and even a complete bear skull, among other items.

“Dogs have a much better sense of smell than people," explained Volker Homes of TRAFFIC Germany.

“They can detect items with low odour and are therefore ideal for quick checks of luggage, mail, or entire containers."

During their months of training, Amy and Uno were taught to identify 15 particular odours. The two dogs have now been in action at Frankfurt, the third largest airport in Europe, for a year, and taking a particular interest in flights from "biodiversity hotspots" in terms of species trafficking, such as Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.

“The seizure of several kilogrammes of caviar, a rhino horn, ivory, and several parts of highly endangered marine turtles is of particular concern,” Homes said. “These discoveries alone render the use of the sniffer dogs a success.”

TRAFFIC helped pioneer the use of sniffer dogs for detecting illegally traded wildlife in Asia, following feasibility studies that led to the establishment of a wildlife sniffer dog unit in South Korea in 2000, and more recently with the introduction of sniffer dogs to assist enforcement actions in India.

Following the success in Frankfurt, WWF and TRAFFIC plan to launch a Europe-wide project that aims to see the use of wildlife detector dogs at the largest European airports and seaports and in major postal distribution centres.

"The EU has become a single market without internal borders. Hence we need effective and consistent action against the illegal trade of species at the gateways to the EU in every Member States," said Homes.

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