At a passing out parade in Bhopal, 14 sniffer dogs and their 28 handlers from the 23rd Battalion of the Special Armed Forces, Madhya Pradesh, displayed their skills. This marks a doubling in the number of India’s wildlife sniffer dogs.
Illegal wildlife trade is widespread globally, and is probably the fourth largest in value behind illegal narcotics, arms trade, and human trafficking. The most commonly known products in illegal wildlife trade in India are mongoose hair, snakeskin, rhino horn, tiger and leopard claws, skins, and elephant tusks, among others.
The 14 dogs have been trained under a programme conducted by Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, which is based in New Delhi, where it functions as a programme division of WWF-India. The sniffer dog training programme is jointly funded by Traffic and WWF-India.
The dogs are trained to sniff out wildlife products such as tiger and leopard bones and skins and bear bile, and also tend to detect other wildlife contraband once deployed in the field.
Since 2008, 13 sniffer dogs have been trained and deployed at key sites for detection and prevention of wildlife crime, and have been involved in more than 100 significant wildlife seizures in recent years. Jimmy, one of Traffic’s sniffer dogs, helped bust at least 25 wildlife poaching and smuggling cases.
Enforcement agencies across India have long-term experience of using and handling sniffer dogs for conducting seizures and curbing crime. Given their emerging role in combating wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade in India, state forest departments have been deploying sniffer dogs and using them in their wildlife law enforcement endeavours.
Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a strategic alliance of WWF, the global conservation organisation, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Traffic India works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature in India.