Elephant's Best Friend

This canine detection unit is ready to sniff out the illegal wildlife trade (and look adorable while doing it).

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

While visiting Kenya over the weekend, President Obama announced a rule proposing to ban the sale of “virtually all ivory” across state lines back home in the United States. But hopefully, these dogs can help crack down on wildlife contraband before it even gets to our country or elsewhere. On Friday, eight dogs and their thirteen handlers from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Tanzania’s Wildlife Division graduated from the African Wildlife Foundation’s Conservation Canine Programme—and are now ready to sniff out illegal ivory.

After two months of intensive training, these members of an elite squad known as the Canine Detection Unit will carry out their duties at border crossings and key eastern Africa airports and seaports—like Dar Es Salaam, Mombasa, and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport—to find ivory and rhino horns before wildlife traffickers can smuggle them out. The pups, chosen from European breeders for their friendliness and playfulness, have a 90 percent accuracy rate. Their sensitive noses are much needed: An elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes, and the surging demand for rhino horns on the Asian medicine market has led to record levels of poaching. Go fetch! 

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

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