BENGALURU: Kempe Gowda International Airport will soon have a sniffer dog team to keep a check on smuggling of wildlife contraband. This is the first time an international airport in the country will be having a dedicated unit for wildlife crime detection.
The Bengaluru Rural division will be sending two of its staffers to 23rd Battalion Special Armed Force Police Dog Training Centre in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Once the team undergoes six months of training along with the trained dog, the team will be deployed at the international airport. The unit at the airport will mainly be dealing in sniffing out wildlife contraband such as live animals, including tortoises, birds, rare medicinal plants, sandalwood and red sander.
The members of ‘Traffic,’ the wildlife trade monitoring in India, who take care of the training and setting up of sniffer dog units have convinced the department to have a dedicated wildlife crime canine unit at the airport.
“The Traffic network has already placed wildlife canine units in 17 Indian states. Karnataka was among the first few states to get a dedicated canine squad. In the last three years, the canines that were trained in wildlife crime detection have achieved 200 wildlife contraband seizures,” said a senior member from the Traffic.
“Bengaluru airport has always been on the radar of wildlife smugglers due to its good connectivity. Since the opening of Bengaluru International Airport, there have been many wildlife seizures, including tiger pelts and star tortoises. Most of these were supposed to reach countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Nepal and Dubai,” the member added.
Currently, Karnataka forest department has two sniffer dog units—Rana and Qwipper — at Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Kali Tiger Reserve in Dandeli. Two of the trained dogs which were procured last year and were stationed at H D Kote died in a span of two to three months due to illness.
The department is yet to take a decision on the new canine squad as the activists have been demanding to have units in Kollegal, Bhadra and BRT Reserves to keep check on poaching and smuggling wildlife contraband.