By Sylvia Zárate
The fight against the trafficking of animals, plants and timber is now in the hands – or, better yet, in the paws and noses – of National Police dogs.
In 2012, Colombian authorities seized about 64,507 wild animals that were being trafficked nationwide.
The illegal wildlife trade generates between US$7.8 billion and US$10 billion worldwide each year, according to the 2011 report by the NGO Global Financial Integrity.
The Canine Squad for Wildlife Detection has four dogs that started working in September. They are trained to detect the most commonly trafficked species of wild animals, including monkeys, turtles, parrots and macaws, which can be sold for as much as US$1,500 apiece on the Asian market.
“These dogs received six months of training in odor detection. They are not familiar with the morphology of the animals, but they know the smell of their skin, their feathers, and once they detect that smell, they will make a sign with their paws or their ears, or they will sit,” said Néstor García, the district secretary of the environment in Bogotá, adding detection teams began working in bus and airplane terminals and public markets where trafficked animals are sold.
From pets to esoteric collections
There’s a strong international demand for animals such as poisonous frogs, snakes, snails and tarantulas, most of which come from the departments of Amazonas, Putumayo, Chocó, Orinoquía and Nariño. More....