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Wildlife sniffer dog force expands with 14 newly trained 'super sniffers'

 
New Delhi, Nov 22 (IANS) The country's wildlife sniffer dogs force has expanded with the induction of 14 young dogs in the squad.

The latest 'super sniffers' unit of wildlife sniffer dogs passed out from the Basic Training Centre Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (BTC-ITBP) camp in Panchkula, Haryana, on November 20.

This is the ninth batch to be trained since the launch of TRAFFIC and WWF India's pioneering wildlife sniffer dog training programme in 2008 and till date, 88 wildlife sniffer dog squads have been trained, a WWF India release said.

Said a top official from the BTC-ITBP, Panchkula, "This programme was carefully designed to accommodate both basic obedience and detection skills specifically to combat the illegal wildlife trade."

The dogs were taught to detect tiger and leopard skin, elephant tusk, skin, and antlers of spotted deer and sambar at the training institute. The dog handlers also learned how to train their dogs to identify other scents, allowing them to develop skills after the course ended.

Director, BTC-ITBP, Panchkula said: "The training was scientifically conducted using modern conditioning techniques, including positive reinforcement through food and play rewards. The dogs were exposed to various real-life search scenarios in both populated and forest areas. I am fully confident that the newly trained wildlife dog squads will substantially help officials curbing the illegal wildlife trade."

During the seven months at BTC-ITBP camp, activities included rugged terrain training such as forests, check posts, during luggage search, parking lots, and vehicles. The trainers used small-sized wildlife articles to accustom the dogs to find targets with low scent concentration in these complex environments.

Head of TRAFFIC's India Office, Dr Saket Badola said, "The sniffer dogs trained under the programme are working relentlessly in tough terrains and have so far assisted the agencies in over 400 wildlife crime cases."

Secretary General and CEO, WWF India, Ravi Singh added, "The dedication and commitment of the wildlife sniffer dog squads are admirable, and the dogs have been a game-changer in the efforts against wildlife crime."

The response from the multiple government departments to deploy and use super sniffers to control wildlife crime has been overwhelming. These include Railway Protection Force, Customs; Forest Departments of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.

Two dog squads will be deployed by the Southern and West Central regions of Indian Railways under TRAFFIC's newly formed alliance with the Railway Protection Force (RPF).

Speaking on behalf of the 28 handlers (two per dog), Vinay Kumar Sharma, Assistant Sub-inspector, Gujarat Forest Department and wildlife sniffer dog handler, said: "The trainers at the training centre and their involvement and support were crucial to our becoming wildlife sniffer dog squad. I am excited to return to my state of deployment along with Topsy and contribute towards curbing poaching and illegal wildlife trade."

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is working to ensure that wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC in India operates as a programme division of WWF-India, the country's largest conservation organisation.

--IANS
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