Thirteen new sniffer dogs to curb wildlife crime

New Delhi: Trained to tackle cases on wildlife crime, 13 new sniffer dogs joined their new posts in different national parks and sanctuaries across eight states, officials said on Tuesday.

Credited to have facilitated over 200 captures since 2008 of illegal wildlife products like animal hides and parts and arrest of the smugglers, the new addition takes India’s net strength of sniffer dogs also called super sniffers to 56.

The training was organized by TRAFFIC with support from WWF-India at the National Training Centre for Dogs (NTCD), at the BSF Academy at Gwalior’s Tekanpur.

The nine female German Shepherds and four male Belgian Malinios dogs between the age group of 6-9 months, along with their handlers, began their nine month long training in April, 2017.

“They sniffers are specially trained to sniff out tiger and leopard skins, bones and other body parts, bear bile and red sanders. … interestingly the earlier deployment has surprised the forest officials as these dogs have evolve new skills in the field,” Dilpreet B. Chhabra, Senior Manager- Communications, TRAFFIC told IANS.

However, for the first time, the new batch of sniffers which will be deployed in Sikkim, were especially trained for tracking Yarsa Gumba (Cordyceps sinensis), a heavily traded wildlife contraband in the region.

Yarsa Gumba, commonly known as Keera Ghaas (insect grass) is a parasitic fungus found in the higher reaches of Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand Himalayas. It is collected in large numbers and smuggled through Nepal to markets in China for use in traditional medicines.

Deployed on the demand by the parks and sanctuary administration, the sniffer dogs will be deployed in the forests of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and Odisha for the first time.

The sniffers batch passed out during a ceremony organized on December 15, at the NTCD, officials said.

“Two handlers from the particular forest area are deployed and trained parallel to the sniffers,” Chhabra said.

Under the deployment, two sniffers will take post at Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand and two Forest Department check-posts in Sikkim. One each will be deployed at Kaziranga National Park in Assam, Katarniyaghat Wildlife Sanctuary and Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh; Satkosia Wildlife Division in Odisha; Mannar Wildlife Division in Kerala; Sundarban Tiger Reserve, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal; and Port Blair in Andaman Nicobar Islands.

“Super sniffers have been successful in nearly 200 wildlife cases of seizures, arrests of suspects and recovery of body parts including skins and bones of tigers, leopards, bear bile, ivory, Indian Star Tortoise, deer antlers, skins and meat, live birds, porcupine, pangolin scales, snares , traps and weapons,” an official said.

So far, 17 states across India have deployed super sniffers.