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Conservation Dogs Unit at wildlife’s rescue

NASHIK: Not only a man’s, but a dog is also everybody’s best friend. Conservation Dogs Unit of Wildlife Conservation Trust is the first of its kind in the country to train dogs to sniff and locate wild animals, snares, and traps. Located on a farm at Trimbakeshwar, Nashik, the CDU is known for aiding the forest department as force multipliers in solving complex conservation problems. Earlier, the department used to take dogs’ help but solely for detection purposes. However, this unit has altered the old pattern and took their sniffing power to another level.

The dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell, their hard work, motivation, and comfort level with humans helps them in getting trained better and saving the residents, injured wildlife, or rescuing the elusive species. Kiran Rahalkar, Wildlife Biologist and in charge of CDU, stated that their dogs have been trained to locate and sniff out the animal, traps, or remains on their own without the support of their trainers, thus making them self-reliant and independent locators. The unit started in 2019, takes on various training and programs to save the wildlife and conserve the environment.

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The unit has four dogs (2 Belgian Shepard and 2 Weimaraner), belonging to the age group of 3 to 4 years, trained by professionals for locating the species based on their biological material like excreta, urine, skin, or bone. The dogs received professional training for a year, and the drills are conducted regularly to keep them active, alert, and motivated for their jobs.

The dogs sniff the biomaterial and help people and the forest department locate an injured or an ill wild animal. Training lays the foundation that aids dogs in working efficiently in complex conservation areas. While some pieces of training happen in a controlled environment, others happen on the field while working on a project.

Human-animal conflict

These dogs work as a locator to sniff and tell the department about the whereabouts of the carnivore, causing threats to domestic animals and residents. Some days before, these dogs helped the department locate a leopard in Perma, Solapur, that had killed ten residents. The dogs tracked the leopard thus, easing up the work of the department.

Road ecology survey

For the first time in India, these dogs are being used for ecological surveys to track the movement of wild animals on roads and highways. To create an underpass or spot the carnivore area near the roadways, the dogs aid the department in locating the exact location. The accurate construction of an underpass reduces the chances of roadkill drastically. These dogs provide fruitful insights for policy recommendations for conservative measures along the highways.

Snare walks

Residents, subsistence hunters, or professional poachers set up deadly tools, camouflaged, and commonly used to hunt animals. These dogs have special snare walks to locate the traps, harmful tools and prevent the life of many innocent animals.

The unit covers Central India and has helped the forest department several times in solving various cases. These dogs play an important role in cases like poaching, illegal hunting, injured wildlife rescue, and others. The unit has a well-ventilated mobile kennel with exhaust fans, surveillance camera, and temperature sensors for dogs to rest at project sites.

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