Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife

Bailey at her induction as the country’s first wildlife detection dog. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 March 2021

Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife

  • The training of new sniffer dogs follows the success of Bailey, Indonesia’s first wildlife detection dog, who was first deployed by authorities in 2018

JAKARTA: An Indonesian group of animal rights activists is giving rescue dogs a chance to put their paws on a new career path by detecting and tracking smuggled wildlife in the country, which is a global hub of illicit trade for endangered and protected animals.

The canine scheme, promoted by Indonesian animal rights activists, looks to tackle the rampant problem in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

The training of new sniffer dogs follows the success of Bailey, Indonesia’s first wildlife detection dog, who was first deployed by authorities in 2018.

A brown female cocker spaniel who turns four in May, Bailey has put her nose to good use in the past few years by sniffing out wild animals that are smuggled through some of the busiest ports and inter-island crossings across Indonesia, helping authorities foil several wildlife trafficking cases in high-profile busts.

“We have eight dogs being trained, and we are expanding, but we are not training specific dog breeds since they are rescue dogs. Some of them are even mixed breeds. Basically, we are giving them a second chance in life,” Femke den Haas, an animal rights activist and co-founder of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), told Arab News.

Bailey and her posse work for the National Police canine squad, which includes big, bulky German Shepherds, Belgian Malinoises, and Golden or Labrador Retrievers that can be intimidating for some people. Therefore, Bailey, as a friendly, cuddly dog, is an ideal fit for the force.

“We work together with authorities to put the dogs at work, but it is our team handling them, because they need to have a handler that is always with them and whom they trust,” Den Haas said, adding that it was “very important” to provide the dogs with the best possible care, train them professionally and keep them motivated to do the job.

“It needs to be fun for them. It is like a game for them, and we make the game more fun. The nice thing about it is that while they are having fun, we can catch the smugglers, so, it is a great combination,” Den Haas said, adding that the dogs and their handlers constantly travel to harbors and airports across Indonesia.

The training times of the working dogs depends on the breed, and because endangered animals are so diverse, JAAN handlers ensure that the dogs learn the scents of various species through training programs.

JAAN works with the Netherlands-based Scent Imprint for Dogs (SIFD) program, which helps train police and service dogs.

The SIFD supervises projects and trains dogs to detect unique wildlife species and commonly trafficked animal parts, such as skin and ivory.

It was in the program where Den Haas first met Bailey when she was attending a course to establish a wildlife detection program in JAAN.

The family that owned Bailey gave her up for adoption as a wildlife detection dog, because they thought Bailey “did not belong inside a house” and needed to be in working mode.

To instill a sense of confidence in the family that Bailey was being put to good use, Den Haas offered to try her for Indonesia’s wildlife detection program.

“This is how we got Bailey. She is our pioneer and the leader of the project, having found most of the smuggled animals. She is really the star,” Den Haas said.

Bailey’s skill was apparent from her first day on the job. She was introduced to the public during an event at the Dutch Embassy’s cultural center in Jakarta, with then-ambassador Rob Swartbol and officials from the police and agriculture ministry’s animal quarantine center in attendance.

Before her introduction, Bailey went through a quarantine and health check-up and hit the ground running during her probation period to detect cargo in Sumatra’s Lampung and Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok ports, where she showed off her sniffing prowess.

Indonesia is home to more than 300,000 wildlife species — about 17 percent of the world’s wildlife — including hundreds with threatened, endangered, vulnerable, and critically endangered status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Wildlife trafficking is a lucrative global business that rakes in between $7 and $23 billion per year around the world.

In Indonesia, it is the third most rampant crime, and is worth more than 13 trillion Indonesian rupiahs per year ($900 million), according to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Tens of thousands of animals, including common birds, reptiles, mammals, primates and turtles, are smuggled across Indonesia, despite many having protected or endangered status.

M. Hariyanto, a spokesman for the Environment and Forestry Ministry Sumatra regional law enforcement office, told Arab News that sniffer dogs had helped officials locate 272 birds kept in a bus bound for the ferry crossing to Java on Friday.

Personnel from the conservation, quarantine agencies, and JAAN categorized 135 of the birds as protected.

“The smugglers stashed the birds in the engine compartment, but the dogs were able to detect the birds,” Hariyanto said.

On March 3, Lampung authorities seized 1,090 birds stashed in plastic and cardboard boxes in a minivan, with 145 of them having protected status. On Feb. 25, authorities also confiscated 105 protected birds from a villager in East Lampung district.

“A dog’s nose can always be trusted. It’s the best detection tool there is,” Den Haas said.


1 dead, 12 injured in metro Phoenix, the latest in gun-crazy US

Updated 18 June 2021

1 dead, 12 injured in metro Phoenix, the latest in gun-crazy US

  • Authorities were combing through at least eight separate shooting scenes

SURPRISE, Arizona: One person was killed and 12 others injured in reported drive-by shootings over a 90-minute span Thursday in three cities west of Phoenix, authorities said.
A suspect was in custody, and authorities said a weapon was found in his vehicle. But it remained unclear if the man was responsible for all of the shootings.
The suspect’s name wasn’t immediately released. Authorities believe he acted alone, although a motive wasn’t immediately known.
“We don’t know the nexus, we don’t know what the motive was, we don’t have an idea of what this person was thinking when he went out and did this,” Peoria police spokesman Brandon Sheffert said at a news conference. “Obviously we want to figure this out because there’s a lot of scared people and people this affected.”
Police departments in Peoria, Surprise and Glendale were investigating the shootings in their cities, along with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the FBI.
Authorities were combing through at least eight separate shooting scenes, Sheffert said.
Four people suffered gunshot wounds, and one of those victims died, he said. That person was found dead in a vehicle along a Peoria freeway.
The other victims had a range of injuries such as shrapnel from broken glass or injuries related to a car crash, Sheffert said.
Officials at Banner Health said they received nine patients at three of their hospitals. But the extent of the victims’ injuries and their conditions were not immediately released.
Peoria police got the initial call about a shooting shortly after 11 a.m., and eight more incidents were reported in the following 90 minutes, Sheffert said.
Witnesses provided authorities with a description of the getaway vehicle, and the suspect was detained after a traffic stop in Surprise.


Bangladeshi COVID-19 vaccine gets conditional clearance for human trials

Updated 18 June 2021

Bangladeshi COVID-19 vaccine gets conditional clearance for human trials

  • Bangavax is a new generation mRNA vaccine, like the Pfizer and Moderna ones, but is expected to be cheaper
  • Bangladesh Medical Research Council requires Bangavax producer to first conduct trials on monkeys or chimpanzees

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities have conditionally cleared the country’s first coronavirus vaccine for clinical trials, which the producer expects to complete in the next few months.

The vaccine, Bangavax, is a new generation mRNA vaccine that, like the Pfizer and Moderna ones, teaches our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. Developed by Dhaka-based Globe Biotech Ltd. (GBL), the vaccine was approved for production by the country’s drug regulator in late December.

On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) approved clinical trials of Bangavax under the condition that “before starting any human trial, the vaccine producing company needs to conduct an animal trial on monkeys or chimpanzees,” BMRC director Prof. Dr Ruhul Amin said.

GBL has been waiting for the trial approval since January.

“It’s a lengthy process,” Amin said. “However, we are doing our best to facilitate the trials of Bangavax.”

Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin, head of quality at GBL, said that while the company is now waiting for the BMRC’s written recommendations, it is preparing to start the trials.

“It will take us eight to nine months to complete the whole process,” he said. “Since we are using pure mRNA technology in Bangavax and no virus is used in this process, we are supposedly not required to make an animal trial.” He said that GBL was in touch with organizations abroad as there is no institution conducting animal trials in Bangladesh.

“To run an animal trial, some foreign companies are asking for a G2G — government to government contract. We hope the government should extend help to us in this case,” Dr. Mohiuddin said.

As Bangavax is estimated to cost $10-$15, several dollars cheaper than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it may help Bangladesh with its immunization drive, in which only 2.6 percent of the country’s 166 million people has been vaccinated so far, mainly due to a shortage of COVID-19 jabs.

FASTFACT

Dr. Mohammed Mushtuq Husain, an adviser at the state-run Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said if Bangavax trials prove successful they would position Bangladesh ‘ahead in the vaccine race amid this global crisis period.’

GBL says it has the capacity to produce 10 million doses a month, and its lab tests on mice suggest that one dose would suffice.

“We are expecting that it will be a single dose vaccine as we found about 100 percent efficacy rate during lab trial on mice,” Dr. Mohiuddin said.

Dr. Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, an adviser at the state-run Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said if Bangavax trials prove successful they would position Bangladesh “ahead in the vaccine race amid this global crisis period.”

“They (GBL) should be provided with necessary administrative and financial support as and when required. But the highest level of precaution is a must at every stage of the trials,” he said.

“If we become successful in this endeavor, Bangladesh may consider exporting vaccine to other developing countries after meeting local demand.”


Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

Updated 17 June 2021

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

  • The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi
  • Inquiry heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the show’s end

LONDON: Security teams at Britain’s Manchester Arena “should have prevented or minimized” the impact of the 2017 terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people, a public inquiry found Thursday.
The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.
In a report examining security measures at the venue in northwest England, inquiry chairman John Saunders said Arena operator SMG, security provider Showsec and British Transport Police all missed opportunities to either prevent or mitigate the attack, which took place on May 22, 2017.
“The security arrangements for the Manchester Arena should have prevented or minimized the devastating impact of the attack,” he wrote.
“Salman Abedi should have been identified on 22nd May 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken.
“Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less,” he added.
The inquiry had heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the end of the show, where the bomb was detonated, but nobody was there.
A Showsec security guard also told the inquiry that he had a “bad feeling” when he saw Abedi around five minutes before the attack, but did not approach him for fear of being called a racist.
“I felt unsure about what to do,” said Kyle Lawler, who was aged 18 at the time of the attack.
“I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.”
Lawler said he had tried to radio the control room, but that he gave up as he could not get through due to radio traffic.
A member of the public had reported Abedi, who was dressed in black and carrying a large rucksack, to security 15 minutes before he detonated the bomb, packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts.
Abedi’s brother was last year jailed for life for playing an “integral part” in the attack, that also injured hundreds.
The Daesh group-inspired suicide bombing targeted crowds of mostly young people.
The youngest victim was aged just eight. Others included parents who had come to pick up their children.

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Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

Updated 17 June 2021

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

  • Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles
  • To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s minority government could be toppled next week after a group of four parties in parliament announced Thursday they would back a no confidence vote, potentially triggering a snap election.

The far-right Sweden Democrats party announced it was calling for a motion of no confidence for Monday after the Left Party earlier warned it would seek a similar move over a dispute on rent controls for newly constructed apartments.

“There is now a majority in parliament that wants to dismiss the prime minister,” Henrik Vinge, parliament group leader for the Sweden Democrats, told a press conference.

Vinge said they hoped the government would fall a year ahead of the next general election.

Both the conservative Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats followed suit, securing a parliamentary majority for the no confidence motion against the government of Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

“We were against the Lofven government when they took power. We were against the Lofven government then, we are against the Lofven government now,” Ebba Busch, party leader of the Christian Democrats, told a press conference.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson echoed this sentiment in a post to social media.

“Our opinion is very clear, this government should never have taken office,” Kristersson wrote in a post to Facebook.

Speaker of the house, Andreas Norlen, confirmed in a statement the vote would be held on Monday.

Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles to secure support for a government following the 2018 election.

To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties, and was propped up by the Left Party.

The deal included liberal market reforms, including a government inquiry into allowing landlords to freely set rents for new apartments.

Several of these reforms have irked the Left Party, and after multiple calls on the government to abandon the “market rents,” party leader Nooshi Dadgostar said earlier on Thursday that they were looking for support among other parties for a vote of no confidence.

“Someone has to stand up for Sweden’s tenants,” Dadgostar told a press conference adding that it wasn’t an “easy announcement.”

Speaking in parliament, Lofven responded by saying it was “not responsible” to call for the vote.

Lofven has announced a press conference of his own at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).


France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

Updated 17 June 2021

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

  • Vaccination rate among health workers in care homes is lagging behind that of the general adult population
  • New daily virus infections in France are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week

PARIS: COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinations could become compulsory for health workers if they do not drop their resistance to getting the jab, France’s health minister warned Thursday.

The threat came on the first day that people in France were authorized to be outdoors without wearing face masks, as vaccinations pick up and new COVID-19 cases drop.

The vaccination rate among health workers in care homes, however, is lagging behind that of the general adult population, 60 percent of which have now received at least one COVID-19 jab, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

He made a “solemn appeal” to health workers, especially in care homes, to “take the plunge.”

“If by the end of the summer there is no improvement we will have to consider making vaccinations for those specific groups obligatory,” Veran told BFM television.

“It is necessary and ethical to get vaccinated when you are in contact with vulnerable populations,” he added.

The coronavirus affected elderly people in care homes particularly severely, especially during the first and second virus waves last year before vaccinations became widespread and social distancing the norm.

Veran would not be drawn on a possible similar move for hospital staff, saying that “we’ll wait and see.”

New daily virus infections in France, at just over 3,000 on Wednesday, are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week and to 1,000 by the end of the month, Veran said.

A daily 11:00 p.m. curfew will be lifted on Sunday, a week ahead of schedule.

Although people can now take off masks when outdoors, there are exceptions including when on busy shopping streets or at crowded events. Masks must still be worn indoors and on public transport.