African conservation firm has said rangers from Kenya and Tanzanian wildlife agencies have completed a two-month intensive training on how to detect ivory hidden in vehicles, buildings and luggage.
The training organized by Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) will see the detection dog teams from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Tanzania’s Wildlife Division be deployed to Port of Mombasa and Port of Dar es Salaam, where they will aid both countries in disrupting the flow of illegal ivory smuggled to markets abroad.
The two ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa have long been identified as primary export hubs for trafficked ivory out of Africa.
According to AWF, between 2006 and 2014, more than 85 percent of seized savannah elephant ivory was traced back to East Africa, much of it from southeastern Tanzania. And between 2009 and 2015, an estimated 188,170 kg of ivory was reportedly smuggled through Kenya’s Port of Mombasa.
“The program specifically combats the trafficking component of the illegal wildlife trade by installing ivory detection dogs at seaports, airports and other ivory trafficking chokepoints, and aims to establish a canine centre of excellence on the continent,” AWF said in a statement sent to Xinhua in Nairobi.
Under MoU inked between AWF and KWS, a dog detection team will be installed at the Port of Mombasa, as well as other identified export hubs like Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, and the border crossings of Lunga Lunga and Namanga at the Kenya-Tanzania border.
KWS Director General William Kiprono said the rigorous training by eminent instructors will help to strengthen and supplement KWS’s existing canine unit, which was one of the first in the region designed to disrupt the illegal wildlife supply chain through our airports and seaports, among other places.
“This training will help to modernize the KWS force and improve the effectiveness of patrols by use of canines for conservation,” he said.
AWF CEO said unlike some of the newer technological solutions that have been proposed, detection dogs are a tried and proven technology.
“If we can make it more difficult and more risky for traffickers to get their products to market, then we make this business less attractive to those looking for a quick, easy profit,” he said.
According to AWF, four dogs and six handlers from Tanzania graduated alongside four dogs, six handlers from Kenya.
The dogs selected for ivory detection were brought in from Europe earlier this year, and comprise a mix of breeds, including spaniel, German shepherd, Malinois and a German short-haired pointer. And the dogs would also be trained to sniff out rhino horn in the near future.