By Jon Hilkevitch
Bonnie Lane in Elk Grove Village seems an unlikely place to be sniffing around for elephant tusks and black rhinoceros horns brought into the United States from Africa, but Lancer the G-dog "nose" his way around cargo facilities.
Lancer, a 4-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, is newly assigned to the Chicago area after recently graduating from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's first training class of wildlife detector dogs.
While canines have been used for years to help authorities find fugitives and missing children, track down smuggled narcotics and identify explosives at airports and train stations, Lancer's mission is to intercept illegally trafficked wildlife and animal parts from protected or endangered species.
The value of the illegal wildlife trade worldwide is at least $5 billion a year and potentially exceeds $20 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Lancer represents the newest weapon at a key entry point to the U.S. — O'Hare International Airport — in the war against the growing international trade in threatened animal parts, officials said.
The smuggled goods range from exotic live reptiles, birds and fish from threatened populations to trophies of lions, leopards, elephants and other beasts illegally shot by hunters to smaller items, including tiger parts and rhino horns, that are destined for the black market for purported medicinal or other purposes, officials said. More....