Monday, March 28, 2011

Use sniffer dogs to nab animal smugglers

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Mar 28, 2011
Use sniffer dogs to nab animal smugglers

IT IS disappointing to read that animal smuggling is on the increase in Singapore ("Animal smuggling on the rise"; March 21).

The illegal wildlife trade is exceedingly cruel and wasteful, and is now second only to the illegal trade in drugs and firearms. Reports have indicated that Singapore is ranked among the top 10 illegal wildlife smuggling hubs in the world.

While measures are in place to curb this trade in Singapore, there is, without a doubt, a need to do more and do so urgently.

In response to Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's (Acres) suggestion of using sniffer dogs to curb the trade, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) stated that "they were less cost-effective than other measures".

Can AVA clarify what the other measures are and whether they are already in place?

Sniffer dogs have been used successfully in several countries. Thailand, for example, which is also a hub for the illegal wildlife trade, now has a sniffer-dog unit. The unit is largely designed to serve as a deterrent to would-be smugglers and wildlife traffickers. The training and maintenance of the entire sniffer-dog unit functions on a meagre annual budget of 1.4 million baht (S$58,000).

In South Korea, Animals Asia Foundation's (AAF) detective dog, Simba, worked with the Incheon Customs Department to spearhead the fight against the trade in endangered species. According to AAF, Simba worked in Incheon airport with his handler to literally "sniff out" smuggled bear gall bladders, bear bile products, tiger bone, ivory and deer musk.

In his two years of employment, Simba repeatedly detected major finds almost every month - totalling an astonishing 142 separate animal parts. These included over 80 finds of bear bile and deer musk, as well as whole bear gall bladders, snakes and seal penis.

Simba even found four live baby monkeys and 22kg of marijuana for which he was not even trained.

The use of sniffer dogs is not only cost-effective but is time-effective as well. Acres hopes that AVA will reconsider our proposal and we will be keen to collaborate with them on this project.

Louis Ng

Executive Director

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres)