Jorba, the lone sniffer dog deployed in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park to combat rhino poachers, will now have company.
The park authorities have decided to have two more sniffer dogs — Kareena and Babli — to save the famed one-horned rhinoceros from poachers.
After months of training in conducting anti-poaching operations, the sniffer dogs have now arrived in Assam and would be in action after getting acquainted with the landscape.
“Dogs have proved to be very effective in anti-poaching operations. Our forests need a good number of these canines. They give us very vital clues, even trace poachers or wildlife articles after the crime has been committed,” Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head of wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, told PTI.
Kareena, a German Shepherd, has been brought over by TRAFFIC while Babli of Belgian Shepherd species will be given by Guwahati-based conservation body Aaranyak.
Kaziranga’s tryst with canine detectives had begun in 2013 when Jorba was imported from Slovakia by Aaranyak.
Since then the five-year-old dog has led to more than 10 arrests and officials claim it’s success ratio was more than 60 per cent.
“We are very happy with the experience. They were successful in 60 per cent of the cases. Sometimes difficult terrain and rainy weather limits their efficiency,” Kaziranga park director M.K. Yadava said.
Any object left at the crime scene by the poacher or even his footprint becomes a tool for the dog to trace him with the power of its nose.
In May last year, a poacher was tracked by Jorba for 1.5 km. He was later cornered by forest guards and killed in an encounter subsequently.
A dog squad comprises a sniffer dog and one or two human handlers.
Assam forest department had sent two of its officials recently for a nine-month-long training along with Kareena at a dog training centre run by Madhya Pradesh Police department in Bhopal.
During the period, the three members of the squad spent most of the time with each other. The first month went in building an affectionate relationship with the canine while the rest of the months were devoted to developing a sense of discipline in the dog and building its skills to track wildlife products.
Aaranyak’s general secretary Bibhab Talukdar said Babli is now getting familiarised with the landscape of Kaziranga and would be deployed after the rainy season.
Kareena would be inducted in the next few days.
One of the biggest headaches of forest officials is getting the poachers convicted due to lack of evidence.
“Dogs solve this problem by finding all possible evidence like the weapon used by the poacher or a body part taken away by them. They can also find the poacher by tracing their exit route from the scene of crime,” Talukdar, a well-known conservationist, said.
These dogs, who have a life span of about 12-13 years, have a career spanning a decade. After an interval of few years, they need to be sent for refresher training again.
Having started in 2008, TRAFFIC has so far trained 27 dogs for forest departments of various states.
Although it is difficult to use dog squads for patrolling due to the size of forests, they are put to action whenever any poaching incident is reported.
According to the latest census conducted in March, there are 2,401 rhinos in Kaziranga. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is spread over 858 sq km area.