Wildlife sniffer dogs to hit a century in India
Panchkula, Haryana: Today marks the start of training for a fresh group of 12 young dogs and their 24 handlers at the Basic Training Centre, Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (BTC-ITBP) camp in Panchkula, Haryana. This training session represents an important milestone for the wildlife sniffer dog squads of TRAFFIC and WWF-India, bringing the total number of trained dogs to an impressive 106.
The 6-9 month old Belgian Malinois dogs and their handlers will undergo rigorous training at BTC-ITBP for approximately seven to eight months, learning skills to detect and curb wildlife crime.
"Popularly known as Super Sniffers, the wildlife sniffer dogs trained under TRAFFIC and WWF-India's programme have been highly successful in seizing wild species contraband from smugglers and catching poachers in the act,” said Dr Merwyn Fernandes, Associate Director, TRAFFIC India office. “Much like with detecting drugs or explosives, these dogs use their incredible sense of smell to detect various wild species parts and derivatives in trade, including those from tigers, elephants, and rhinos, deer meat, live birds, snakes, porcupines, red sanders, turtles, and tortoises."
After completion of the training, the wildlife sniffer dog squads will join the forest departments of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. In Uttarakhand, three wildlife sniffer dog squads will be deployed by Corbett Tiger Reserve and one squad by Rajaji Tiger Reserve. In Jharkhand, the wildlife sniffer dog squad will be deployed by Palamu Tiger Reserve.
In Maharashtra, the wildlife sniffer dog squad will be deployed by the Pench Tiger Reserve, and in Madhya Pradesh, by the Kanha Tiger Reserve. In Odisha, two squads will be deployed by the Similipal Tiger Reserve. In Chhattisgarh, two wildlife sniffer dog quads will be deployed by Achanakmar Tiger Reserve and in West Bengal, a dog squad will be deployed by Buxa Tiger Reserve.
The wildlife sniffer dog training programme at BTC-ITBP is divided into two critical phases. The first phase focuses on developing an emotional and trusting bond between the dog and the handler - crucial to becoming a successful wildlife sniffer dog squad. This is followed by basic obedience training. Later, the dogs learn sniffing and tracking skills, mastering the detection of tiger and leopard skins, bones and other body parts, bear bile, red sanders, and other illegal wild species products.
This important programme of training sniffer dogs for wildlife crime prevention and detection in India was launched in 2008 with just two dogs. By the end of 2022, 94 wildlife sniffer dogs were trained and deployed under this programme. With this batch, the number of wildlife sniffer dogs trained under TRAFFIC and WWF-India's programme will hit a century. It is heartwarming to see the overwhelming response and support from the government enforcement agencies for this programme".
Dr Dipankar Ghose, Senior Director, Biodiversity Conservation, WWF-India
Inspector General, BTC-ITBP, Panchkula Haryana, said, "Wildlife crime is growing to become one of the largest crimes that need to be curbed to protect the future of our wildlife. BTC-ITBP, Panchkula, has years of experience in training sniffer dogs for crime detection in India, and we have extended our full support in conducting specialized training of sniffer dogs for wildlife crime detection in India. For this, we have partnered with TRAFFIC and WWF-India in their unique programme. The new batch of wildlife sniffer dogs is the fourth to be trained at our centre, and we wish the participants good luck with their training".
Till 2022, 94 wildlife sniffer dogs have been trained and deployed in 21 states and Union Territories. With the current batch, the number of participating states and Union Territories will become 22.
The illegal wildlife trade has endangered the existence of many wild species across the globe. In India, it includes the illegal trade of products like mongoose hair; snake skins; rhino horn; tiger and leopard claws, bones, skins, whiskers; elephant tusks; deer antlers; shahtoosh shawl; turtle shells; musk pods; bear bile; medicinal plants; timber and caged birds such as parakeets, mynas, munias, etc. There is an urgent need for action to stop all illegal wildlife trade that has threatened and even pushed many species towards extinction. Training wildlife sniffer dogs is a step forward in this direction.
To learn more about TRAFFIC and WWF-India's wildlife sniffer dog programme in India, please visit - https://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/enablers/traffic/our_work/super_sniffers/