The Jaldapara National Park has recently appointed a new guard with a nose for poachers. Rani, a year-old German Shepherd, is the first dog to be inducted to the state forest department after nearly 8 months of training with her handlers. Over the past 18 months, 11 rhinos and 8 elephants have been killed in Jaldapara and Buxa Tiger Reserve, said sources. No tigers have been spotted at Buxa Tiger Reserve in almost two years.
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Trained to sniff out illegal wildlife items such as animal skin, bones and horns, Rani began working on Saturday. Bhaskar VJ (divisional forest officer) said this was the first time that a “specially trained dog squad” has been engaged by the forest department. Rani’s handlers will be forest guard Biplab Kumar Roy and chowkidar Vanu Rava — both from the Jaldapara forest division.
Rani and her two handlers underwent 8 months of training in Madhya Pradesh. “They were trained at the Tekanpur BSF Dog Training Centre at Gwalior. The training is sponsored by the NGO TRAFFIC India and is done in collaboration with the state forest department. The dog has been trained to detect items such as tiger bones, tusk, leopard skin and rhino horn,” said an official.
But that’s not all Rani has been trained for. The terrain of North Bengal makes moving on foot difficult, if not extremely risky. Hence, Rani has also been trained to travel on the back of an elephant while searching for clues. “If the forest staff feel that a person is carrying illegal items, Rani can check them thoroughly. Also, travelling on an elephant’s back makes it easier to scan the forest for animal carcasses,” added the officer.
Wildlife items in this area are often smuggled across the border to Bhutan and other areas through places such as Madarihat and Jaigaon.