Published 26 April 2012

Meeting sparks international interest in wildlife detector dog programmes

Budapest, Hungary, 26th April 2012—More than 50 participants met earlier this week in Budapest to share experiences on the use of wildlife detector dogs in tackling wildlife crime. 

Methods used to train wildlife detector dogs were demonstrated during a meeting this week in Hungary. © Birgit Braun / WWF Germany

The participants came from 20 countries, mainly from within Europe, but also including Nepal and Kenya. They included representatives from international organizations such as INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Countries currently operating wildlife detector dog programmes who were present at the meeting included Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands and the UK.

Detector dogs are proving to be a highly effective deterrent and weapon in the fight against trafficking of wildlife in a number of countries, with WWF and TRAFFIC-supported dog programmes operating in countries including Germany, India and Russia. 

The latest meeting provided the opportunity for participants to exchange ideas on the successful operation of detector dog programmes, and to examine the limitations in their use. 

The meeting included a practical session where training of a Hungarian wildlife detector dogs was demonstrated. Once trained, the dogs are used to detect wildlife trafficking, mainly at air- and sea-ports and postal mail centres. 

Participants emphasized how the use of such animals can raise public awareness about wildlife trade regulations, and help raise the profile of wildlife trafficking as a serious crime. 

On the day the meeting opened, Belgium Customs announced a significant seizure of 113 Johnston’s Chameleons Chameleon johnstoni, found concealed inside a legal shipment of more than 100 venomous snakes imported from Burundi and destined for the Czech Republic. 

The case was representative of the illegal trafficking of live reptiles into Europe, although many other wildlife goods are also smuggled into the region including live birds such as raptors and parrots, and wildlife parts, such as elephant ivory or products, such as caviar and reptile skin.

TRAFFIC’s Volker Homes, based at WWF Germany said: “Following this successful meeting, several participants have expressed an interest in establishing wildlife detector dog programmes in their respective countries—an outcome which can only be good news for wildlife and bad news for traffickers.”

The meeting was held thanks to a number of donors, in particular the European Union DG Home Affairs.