Super Sniffers

(Credits: IANS)

Man’s best friends have proven time and again that they’re more than just furry little playmates, even sneaking their way into challenging fields like wildlife conservation. Over the years, sniffer dogs have proved to be one of the most effective methods for wildlife crime detection and prevention due to their agility and exceptional olfactory senses.

Now, a 5-month-old German Shepherd puppy named Ilu has enlisted in the tenth batch of the ‘Super Sniffer’ dogs at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police patrol organisation. After the completion of her training, Ilu’s high-profile job would consist of protecting the recently-reintroduced Namibian Cheetahs at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park.

Why do the Cheetahs need protection?

While India takes pride in hosting four major biodiversity hotspots, it is unfortunately also infamous for wildlife trafficking. At present, the nation ranks among the top 20 countries for illegal trading of wildlife material, including an array of products ranging from fur, skin, horns, antlers, etc.

In fact, hunting was one of the major reasons behind India’s cheetahs going extinct in the first place. And now that these beasts are back in the country after 70 years, they need to be protected from greedy poachers to prevent history from repeating itself.

Can’t the cheetah protect itself?

As apex predators themselves, cheetahs face no significant threat from other animals. However, they do need protection from their biggest enemies: humans.

“Ilu is not supposed to protect cheetahs because they can protect themselves, she will be deployed on the periphery of the national park along with forest guards to protect cheetahs and other animals from poachers,” said Sanjeev Sharma, handler of Ilu, who is currently employed with the forest department at Kuno National Park.

What will Ilu’s training entail?

For starters, Ilu’s will be expected to focus on bonding with her handler. In the next stint, which will last for around seven months, she will acquire essential skills like obedience, sniffing and tracking animal hide, bones, etc.

“Dogs trained at ITBP dog training centre have a high rate of wildlife crime detection. There are scores of success stories where dogs have helped in the arrest of poachers and recoveries of wildlife species and their remains,” said Sanjeev.

The dog training for wildlife law enforcement is being done in collaboration with TRAFFIC (a wildlife trade monitoring network) and World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

Ilu’s job is supposed to start in April 2023.

(With inputs from the Times of India)

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