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Frequently Asked Questions – Super Sniffers

In 2008, TRAFFIC started a pioneering programme of sniffer dogs training to strengthen anti-poaching and anti-trafficking measures of the forest departments and other enforcement agencies. A state-of-the-art training programme, currently conducted at Bhopal involves training dogs and their handlers as dog squads. After nine months of training, trained dogs and their handlers are deployed to the sponsoring forest departments or organisations. TRAFFIC funds the entire programme, from the training and support staff welfare to care for dogs, post-training. It has constantly been encouraging forest departments, tiger reserves and other wildlife law enforcement agencies to deploy sniffer dog squads for patrolling and in conducting searches and seizures. The use of sniffer dogs for curbing illegal wildlife trade is a proven practice internationally, and it has recently started in India as a significant tool in the fight against wildlife crimes.

Why was the programme started in India?

Illegal wildlife trade continues to prevail and has evolved into an organised activity, threatening the survival of many species in India. Current practices for combating illegal wildlife trade have not proved sufficient in curtailing this. In order to curb this growing menace, it is necessary that the best enforcement practices are deployed. Using sniffer dogs for crime detection and prevention is one of the long proven practices TRAFFIC has experience of running in several countries. The programme is leading to early successes, and the dogs are being regularly used for patrolling and are proving to be a strong deterrent.

When was the programme started?

The sniffer dog training programme was started in India by TRAFFIC/WWF in the year 2008 and since then until July 2015, 25 dogs and 52 handlers have been successfully trained and deployed.

Who are the partners for this programme?

The 23rd Battalion of Special Armed Forces, Madhya Pradesh Police Dog Training Centre, Bhopal and National Dog-training Centre at ITBP camp in Panchkula, Haryana have been the two principal partners for training these specialised wildlife detector dogs. Besides training, both technical and financial support has also been provided by WWF-India and WWF-UK from time to time.

How many sniffer dogs have been trained and deployed in the field?

So far, 25 dogs and 52 handlers have been successfully trained and deployed in the field. They are attached to the forest departments of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Haryana and Bihar.

Which breed of dogs are used for this programme and when does the training begin for them?

German Shepherds are being trained to become wildlife sniffer dogs. Pups as old as 6-9 months are enrolled for training at the designated training centres.

What is the duration of the training?

About nine months for raising the squads, which includes orientation and training of the dogs and the handlers.

What are the dogs trained for?

The dogs are trained to detect wildlife articles such as tiger bone, tiger skin, leopard bone, leopard skin and bear bile. However, after their deployment, many trained sniffer dogs adapt and could detect many other wildlife parts and derivatives including ivory, deer meat, various live wild bird species, star tortoise, red sand boa, wild boar, blackbuck, hare, python, rat snake, porcupine, nilgai, bear, etc. They have also been successful in recovering weapons. They have been playing a huge role in detecting wildlife crimes, and in prosecution and investigations.

How important is the comradery between the dog and handler?

It is extremely important for the dog and the handler to bond as they have to work together as a team. The pups and their handlers are introduced to each other at the training centre and from there begins their journey together. Taking care of the pup/dog during and after the training becomes the responsibility of the handler. The bond of trust and attachment between the dog and its handler is imperative for the success of this programme.

Has the programme been successful so far?

Jimmy, a sniffer dog trained under TRAFFIC’s programme, was accorded a Certificate of Merit by the Governor of Madhya Pradesh in 2013. Jimmy has helped bust at least 25 wildlife poaching and smuggling cases. Jimmy has helped in nabbing poachers, detecting and seizing star tortoises, skins and bones of tigers and leopards, detecting sambar meat, birds and many other wildlife contrabands.

She helped recover two leopard skins and bones from the forests of Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh on 25-26 November 2014. The leopard skin and bones recovered were from an animal that had been poached five days earlier. The sniffer dog was called in from Jabalpur. With the help of her handlers, Kailash Charar and Chandra Bhusan Tiwari, Jimmy searched the area extensively and led the team to the spot where the leopard parts were hidden in the hotel. Of the five poachers involved, three were arrested, and two poachers are absconding.

Jimmy again helped in recovering two leopard skins and bones from the forests of Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh on 18 December 2014. The skin and bones of a leopard that had been poached five days earlier were recovered. With help from her handlers, she searched the area extensively and led the team to the spot where the leopard parts had been chopped and then to the hotel where the parts were hidden, and the two of the three poachers were residing. One of the poachers was arrested while the other managed to escape.

Jackie, another sniffer dog, trained under TRAFFIC’s programme, along with her handlers, Mr Padam Singh Rajput and Mr Shivram, helped apprehend two poachers in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh in October 2010. Also recovered from the two poachers were several traps for catching wild animals and six live Grey Francolins Francolinuspondicerianus. The seizure helped prevent a major poaching incident in the region.

In September 2010, Raja, the sniffer dog posted at Bhrampuri Wildlife Division, Maharashtra, helped bust a leopard poaching case that led to the arrest of seven involved. Villagers in Buldhana district had killed a Leopard and hidden its body parts. Raja, along with handlers, Mr Ansari and Mr Andraskar helped find the hidden leopard parts as well as the accused.

Tracey, a two-year-old female dog, helped recover two elephant tusks, weighing over 32 kg from the forests of Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary in Jharkhand on 30 January 2012. The tusks were of an elephant that had died two days earlier. On reaching the spot where the elephant had died, the forest officials discovered that the tusks were missing and immediately launched a search. With no success, the sniffer dog was called in from the Betla Tiger Reserve. She, with help from her handlers, Rajbeer and Rampado Sahidas, searched the area extensively and led the team to the spot where the tusks were hidden.

Peter, a two-year-old male dog on his first case, helped recover sambar meat, near the forests of Navegoan National Parkplace called Wadegoan in Maharashtra on 8 February 2014. He helped to track the two poachers and also the meat. With help from his handlers, Lalit Agnihotri and Raju Nagpure, Peter searched the area extensively and led the team to the spot where the meat was hidden and finally to the poachers.

How many more dogs are under training and where will they be deployed?

Currently, fourteen sniffer dogs are under training at the 23rd Battalion of Special Armed Forces, Madhya Pradesh Police Dog Training Centre, and Bhopal for the following agencies

3 – Maharashtra (Pench National Park, Melghat National Park, and Chandoli National Park)

3-Madhya Pradesh (Indore Special Task Force, Sagar Special Task Force and Satna Special Task Force

2-Assam (Kaziranga Assam Police Rhino Special Task Force and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary)

2-Uttarakhand (Rajaji National Park and Corbett National Park)

1-Karnataka (Bandipur National Park)

1-Tamil Nadu (Grizzled Giant Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, Srivilliputhur)

2- Jharkhand (Palamau National Park)

What is an average cost of training one dog and his handler?

On an average INR 3,00,000 per dog squad ( i.e., one dog and two handlers). This includes the cost of procuring the puppy, training charges for the dog and orientation and training of the handler including the welfare measures for the dogs and of handlers.

What is the retirement plan for these dogs once they become old and are unable to work as sniffer dogs?

This is currently under a consultation process between various agencies involved and will be rolled out soon.

Can I donate for more than one programmes?

Yes, you can support and donate for more than one programme. You have the option to select the one or two of causes which you wish to donate for at the payment gateway.

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