Photo credit: Tom MacKenzie / USFWS
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector Amir Lawal, Miami, Florida, handles Viper as he "hits" a simulated box containing wildlife products on a moving conveyor belt during his training in Newnan, Ga. The dog has been trained to detect various wildlife products scents to help deter illegal wildlife smuggling.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has trained a new team from the animal kingdom to help take down the humans who seek to destroy it. Four sniffing, sleuthing dogs are about to show poachers and smugglers what happens when animals attack the animal-attackers. Release the hounds!
Er... the retrievers.
Viper, Butter, Locket and Lancer will be the smugglers' first round of least best friends, and more four-legged lawmen are on the way, according to the USFWS.
VIDEO: Scroll down to see the dogs in action
A sharp increase in the illegal trade of elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and other wildlife parts has escalated to critical status for some species, the agency explains in a news release:
“The recent rapid growth in the global trade in protected wildlife is pushing some species perilously close to extinction. Elephant and rhino populations in particular are declining at alarming rates,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace. “The battle to stop wildlife smuggling is one we simply cannot afford to lose, and using dogs and their phenomenal sense of smell to catch smugglers will give us a real leg up in this effort.”
The use of dogs in law enforcement isn’t new. Dogs are already used to detect illegal fruits and food products, bombs and drugs. Some have even been trained to track down pythons that are invading Florida’s Everglades. Training dogs to find smuggled wildlife products was the next step.
The agency's first new class of "wildlife detector dogs" graduated from training last week and will soon be stationed at a number of U.S. ports-of-entry to begin searching for smuggled parts and protected species.
Louisville, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago top the list — Louisville is key because it's the home to UPS' worldwide air hub. Fish and Wildlife officials says the dogs may also visit facilities elsewhere.