By Lindy Taverner
Canines are increasingly being used in crime tracking and detection work.
The heroes in the shadows of conservation are of the four-legged, furry variety. These dog detectives are not only able to locate hidden firearms and cocaine, but can sniff out ivory as well, greatly complementing conservation law enforcement efforts.
A specialized anti-poaching team of trainers and uber-dogs make up the Tanzanian Police Canine Unit, supported by PAMS Foundation. Five Tanzanian dogs and five handlers received specialized training by experts from Finland. The trained dogs are named Gilo, Nopi, Haki, Kia and Naki. They are mixed-breed Tanzanian dogs with some German Shepherd in them, and are much more resistant to disease than foreign dogs.
PAMS Director, Krissie Clark says, “In most other places they bring in foreign dogs to the detection dog work. This approach of using local dogs is unique, more cost effective and sustainable”.
PAMS Foundation is supporting detection dog work at Dar es Salaam seaport, airport, and the NTSCIU anti-poaching project in their operations – as well as the MNRT Wildlife Crime Unit.
The Foundation is working with rangers, village game scouts and local communities in various areas in Tanzania to facilitate anti-poaching patrols and operations to arrest poachers operating in the field. In order to address the higher levels of the pyramid, by arresting the traders and buyers and in so doing dismantle illegal ivory syndicates, PAMS Foundation has a unique partnership with the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU).
PAMS has been working with the NTSCIU of the Government of Tanzania for several years. In the last two years, PAMS have received better funding and with this have managed to cripple a lot of ivory syndicates operating in the Selous, Ruaha, and Katavi ecosystems.
In the last two years the NTSCIU has been responsible for arresting over 1156 suspects, of which 315 have already been sentenced. Sentences have included several 40-year, 20-year and 15-year sentences. The unit has also confiscated over 350 firearms used in poaching. The assistance of detection dogs to help locate hidden ivory and firearms has been a great advantage.
PAMS Director Krissie Clark asserts, “I am always amazed at the dogs’ incredible sense of smell, and how their noses are helping the Tanzania Government put away wildlife and drug traffickers.”
Team Rokka from Finland were the experts subcontracted by PAMS Foundation to facilitate providing this additional support service of detection dogs to the NTSCIU. They not only provided detection dogs during operations in the field and at Dar es Salaam port, but also helped to build local capacity through training Tanzania dog handlers and training local dogs as detection dogs.
PAMS Director Wayne Lotter said: “The dogs trained by Team Rokka have already helped detect important evidence in some extremely important cases including that of ‘Shetani’, whose arrest made international media.”
The arrested ‘Shetani’ Boniface Matthew Mariango, also known as the ‘Pitiless Devil’ and the ‘King of Ivory’, is currently being prosecuted for illegal possession of 118 pieces of elephant tusks worth almost U.S. $1 million.
The Tanzanian canine detection team has also made its first drug bust.
The U.S. government funded four Belgian Malinois named Yana, Messi, Max and Kyra. The dogs and their handlers, specially selected members of the Tanzanian Police Force Canine Unit, completed ten weeks of training at the Customs and Border Patrol Canine Training Facility in El Paso, Texas.
The dogs have been adopted and integrated into the PAMS Foundation Detection Dog Project, so all the dogs and handlers now fall under the Tanzania Police Dog Unit. PAMS Foundation provides food, water, medical care, transport and training. The old kennels have been converted to modern state of the art kennels, fit for dog kings!
The Tanzania Canine Unit responded to a call from the Commander of the Police Anti-Drugs Unit on the 26th August, requesting search support of a vehicle in the city of Dar Es Salaam. The handler and his dog, Yana, detected 115 grams of heroin hidden in the vehicle. She alerted to a package hidden near the left-rear tire and the package tested positive for heroin, leading to the suspect being placed into custody.
The unit has responded to multiple requests for assistance from the NTSCIU, conducting frequent searches at the airport and seaport.
The efforts of these dog detectives and their handlers, governments in partnership and NGO’s such as PAMS Foundation, demonstrates how the intelligence-led multi-agency approach offers an efficient method of reducing the availability of illegal substances.
Lindy Taverner is the director of TOM Productions a PR and events company based in Cape Town, South Africa. She has specialised in elephant conservation over the last five years, including production of a documentary, fundraising events and managing online media presence for various conservation NGOs.
For further information, contact: Lindy.firstname.lastname@example.org