Two Labrador dogs, Bess and Buster, were trained by British police to help fight pangolin trafficking in Thailand, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said on Tuesday.
Pangolins are scaly animals that are native to parts of Asia and Africa. They are sometimes called ‘scaly anteaters’ because of their long, sticky tongues and diet, consisting mainly of ants and termites.
Their scales are made of keratin, the same material found in human hair and nails. These scales protect them from predators, and when threatened, pangolins will roll up into a tight ball to defend themselves.
Pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world. Their scales are used in traditional medicine, and their meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. As a result, all eight species of pangolins are endangered, with some facing a very high risk of extinction.
Bess and Buster have undergone an eight-week training programme with London’s Metropolitan (Met) Police and will complete their training in Thailand. The dogs will then use their sniffing skills to detect pangolins being smuggled through airports, ports and by road.
”We reckon one (pangolin) is poached every 5 minutes. So really horrific numbers that they’ve been trafficked in,” Grant Miller, anti-trafficking advisor at London zoo, said.
“We’ve got the Met police who are delivering that top-level training and really to support our colleagues on the front line of the illegal wildlife trade. We have the expertise here. It’s right and proper that we share those skills with those that are battling day by day,’ Miller told news agency Reuters.
After fighting pangolin trafficking in Thailand, the dogs will retire in the country. ”They have a working life of seven to eight years, and then they’ll be retired and cared for in Thailand. So yeah, they’re going to sunnier climates,” Miller said.