A four-footed canine force is helping to stop wildlife crime in China’s Yunnan Province. Three fully trained Labrador retrievers are set to sniff out illegal wildlife parts and products.
Tiger bones, elephant ivory, rhino horn and live freshwater turtles are among the items that the dogs are trained to sniff out. All of these wildlife products are commonly smuggled into China as demand is high for exotic and rare health tonics, ornaments and food.
The dogs and their handlers underwent intensive training with the anti-smuggling unit of China’s customs bureau. They had to pass a rigorous exam by locating wildlife products concealed in a variety of locations, including containers on an airport luggage conveyor belt and at a postal center.
The dogs are expected to be deployed at key airports and checkpoints in the province.
“The use of detector dogs is a new approach in China to detect wildlife contraband and will increase our work efficiency on the front line,” said Jun Tan, Head of the Detector Dog Programme at the Anti-Smuggling Bureau.
Working together to fight wildlife crime
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN, provided support for the training project.
“The deterrent effect of having trained detector dogs on patrol should not be underestimated,” said Dr. Jianbin Shi, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Program. “Wildlife smugglers will be aware the dice are now heavily loaded in favor of them being caught.”
Together with representatives from the anti-smuggling unit and other government agencies and TRAFFIC observed the dogs’ “graduation exam” at the training base. They later joined a symposium on the training project and future plans to further develop the detector dog program.
With the success of this pilot project, TRAFFIC and customs officials hope to inspire more enforcement agencies in China and other countries to take these and other innovative steps to fight the scourge of wildlife crime.