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New Canine Patrol is Poachers’ Worst Nightmare

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Poaching is one of those complicated crimes that requires a solid distribution network. Poached items are rarely valued where they’re poached, so a network of middlemen are needed. Now authorities are stepping up their game in those channels and shutting down the trade routes that allow the enterprise to thrive.

One port in Kenya is now using dogs to sniff out the animal products poachers are trying to get out of the country.

The new tactic “will allow dogs to sniff out ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products hidden in large shipping containers, using a tiny sample of air,” BBC writes.

The dogs are now patrolling Kenya’s Mombasa port. The shipping center is one of Africa’s most active departure points for ivory and rhino horn.

“More than 18,000kg of ivory was seized at the port between 2009 and 2014,” BBC adds. They estimate that amount of ivory would require 2,400 elephants. This number is hardly representative of the number of elephants killed as it only really accounts for the seized poached ivory–there’s no estimate for how much made it through.

“This technique could be a game-changer, reducing the number of endangered animal parts finding their way into overseas markets like south-east Asia,” conservationist Drew McVey said.

“Dogs’ incredible sense of smell means they can sniff out even the tiniest amount in a 40-foot container.”

“As organized criminal syndicates use ever more sophisticated methods to hide and transport illegal wildlife products it is vital that we continue to evolve our efforts to disrupt the barbaric trade.”

The new procedure is being called the Remote Air Sampling for Canine Olfaction (Rasco). Air from inside containers will be sampled by the dogs who would signal when they smelled anything. They are being taught to identify animal products, but also timber.

The sampling means the dogs no longer have to inspect every single container.

“While time consuming, this method had led to 26 successful seizures in just six months, giving authorities crucial information about the criminal networks which make millions each year from the illegal trade,” BBC concludes.