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
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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.


Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border

Updated 5 sec ago
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Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border

  • The order Biden issued last week would limit asylum processing once encounters with migrants between ports of entry reach 2,500 per day.

WASHINGTON: A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups sued the Biden administration on Wednesday over President Joe Biden’s recent directive that effectively halts asylum claims at the southern border, saying it differs little from a similar move during the Trump administration that was blocked by the courts.

The lawsuit — filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and RAICES — is the first test of the legality of Biden’s sweeping crackdown on the border, which came after months of internal White House deliberations and is designed in part to deflect political attacks against the president on his handling of immigration.

“By enacting an asylum ban that is legally indistinguishable from the Trump ban we successfully blocked, we were left with no choice but to file this lawsuit,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the ACLU.

The order Biden issued last week would limit asylum processing once encounters with migrants between ports of entry reach 2,500 per day. It went into effect immediately because the latest figures were far higher, at about 4,000 daily.

The restrictions would be in effect until two weeks after the daily encounter numbers are at or below 1,500 per day between ports of entry, under a seven-day average. But it’s far from clear when the numbers would dip that low; the last time was in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order went into effect June 5, and Biden administration officials have said they expected record levels of deportations.

But advocates argue that suspending asylum for migrants who don’t arrive at a designated port of entry — which the Biden administration is trying to push migrants to do — violates existing federal immigration law, among other concerns.

Biden invoked the same legal authority used by the Trump administration for its asylum ban, which comes under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. That provision allows a president to limit entries for certain migrants if their entry is deemed “detrimental” to the national interest.

Biden has repeatedly criticized Trump’s immigration policies as he campaigns, and his administration argues that his directive is different because it includes several exemptions for humanitarian reasons. For example, victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied minors and those with severe medical emergencies would not be subject to the limits.

“We stand by the legality of what we have done,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on ABC’s “This Week” before the lawsuit was filed, saying he anticipated legal challenges. “We stand by the value proposition.”

Under Biden’s directive, migrants who arrive at the border but do not express a fear of returning to their home countries will be subject to immediate removal from the United States, within a matter of days or even hours. Those migrants could face punishments that could include a five-year bar from reentering the US or even criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, those who express fear or an intention to seek asylum will be screened by a US asylum officer but at a higher standard than currently used. If they pass the screening, they can pursue more limited forms of humanitarian protection, including the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits returning people to a country where they’re likely to face torture.


More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

Updated 12 June 2024
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More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo: A boat carrying more than 270 passengers has capsized on a river near Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, leaving more than 80 dead, President Félix Tshisekedi said Wednesday.

It was the latest deadly boat accident in the central African country where overloading is often blamed, including in February when dozens lost their lives after an overloaded boat sank.
A statement quoting Tshisekedi said the locally made boat capsized late Monday in Maï-Ndombe province along the Kwa River.
The boat was carrying 271 passengers to Kinshasa when it broke down due to an engine failure, according to the UN-backed Radio Okapi, citing Ren Maker, the water commissioner in the Mushi district where the accident happened.
Eighty-six of the passengers died while 185 managed to swim ashore, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) near the closest city of Mushie, Maker said.
He said the boat hit the edge of the river bank and broke up.
Congolese officials have often warned against overloading and vowed to punish those violating safety measures for water transportation. But in remote areas where most passengers come from, many are unable to afford public transport for the few available roads.
 

 

 


Apparent pro-Palestinian activists splash red paint on homes of Jewish officials at Brooklyn Museum

Updated 12 June 2024
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Apparent pro-Palestinian activists splash red paint on homes of Jewish officials at Brooklyn Museum

  • Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, wrote: “This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism”
  • Taylor Maatman, a spokesperson for the museum said a report was filed with police but declined to provide more details

NEW YORK: People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of four Jewish officials with the Brooklyn Museum and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, in sprees of vandalism that prompted a police investigation and brought condemnation from city authorities.
Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared four images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”
“This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism,” Adams wrote, sending sympathy to Pasternak and other museum board members whose homes were defaced. “These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason.”
Taylor Maatman, a spokesperson for the museum said a report was filed with police but declined to provide more details.
“We are deeply troubled by these horrible acts of vandalism targeting museum leadership,” she said in a statement.
Red paint was also splashed across the front of a Manhattan building that houses Germany’s consulate and the United Nations mission, and another building that is a headquarters for for Palestinian diplomats. Flyers critical of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were scattered outside the building.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible or whether the acts of vandalism were all related.
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department declined to comment, saying the agency was investigating and would provide more information later. Messages seeking comment were also sent to Palestinian and German diplomats.
Hundreds of protesters marched on the Brooklyn Museum late last month, briefly setting up tents in the lobby and unfurling a “Free Palestine” banner from the roof before police moved in to make dozens of arrests. Similar protests have happened since October at other New York City museums.
The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.
The protest group did not respond to an email seeking comment.
City Comptroller Brad Lander, who was among the New York politicians to speak out against the protests, said the Brooklyn Museum has done more to grapple with questions of “power, colonialism, racism & the role of art” than many other museums.
“The cowards who did this are way over the line into antisemitism, harming the cause they claim to care about, and making everyone less safe,” he wrote on X.
The grand beaux arts museum, the city’s second largest, sits at the edge of Crown Heights, home to one of the city’s largest communities of Orthodox Jews.
The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”
That protest also drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.
“The callousness, dehumanization, and targeting of Jews on display at last night’s protest outside the Nova Festival exhibit was atrocious antisemitism — plain and simple,” US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday on X.


9 killed in Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine ahead of G7 summit aimed at slowing Moscow’s offensive

Updated 12 June 2024
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9 killed in Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine ahead of G7 summit aimed at slowing Moscow’s offensive

  • Zelensky said the strike has again proven that “Ukraine, together with its partners, must strengthen its air defenses”
  • “Modern air defense systems are capable of providing maximum protection of people, our cities, and our positions“

KYIV: Russian forces launched new deadly attacks on Ukraine, killing at least nine people on Wednesday, a day before the leaders of countries that are some of Ukraine’s biggest backers were to discuss how to slow Moscow’s offensive.
Ukrainian authorities said that along with the nine killed, 29 others, including five children, were wounded when Russian missiles hit an apartment block in Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown.
Zelensky said the strike has again proven that “Ukraine, together with its partners, must strengthen its air defenses” — something that he has repeatedly appealed for with Ukraine’s Western partners. The United States has agreed to send another Patriot missile system, two US officials said late Tuesday.
“Modern air defense systems are capable of providing maximum protection of people, our cities, and our positions,” Zelensky said. “And we need as many of them as possible.”
Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine’s air force said it shot down more than two dozen air targets, including cruise missiles, a Kinzhal ballistic missile and Shahed drones. Several people were wounded, authorities said.
Kyiv’s outgunned and outnumbered forces are battling to hold back the bigger Russian army, which is trying to exploit Ukrainian vulnerabilities. Ukraine has been short of troops, ammunition and air defenses in recent months as the Kremlin’s forces try to cripple the national power supply and punch through the front line in eastern parts of the country.
Ukraine will need to weather the Russian onslaught through the summer, military analysts say, and in the meantime train more soldiers, build fortifications and hope that the provision of Western military aid picks up speed so that in 2025 Kyiv may be able to mount its own offensive.
Several diplomatic events over the next few days are aimed at how to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion or how to bring about an end to the war.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and the other Group of Seven leaders will gather in Italy for their annual summit to discuss ways to help Ukraine, including how to divert more frozen Russian assets to Kyiv’s defense.
Separately, the Biden administration on Wednesday said it had broadened sanctions against Russia by targeting companies that help Moscow’s war effort and raising the stakes for foreign financial institutions that work with sanctioned Russian entities.
The more than 300 new sanctions are largely aimed at deterring individuals and companies in countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Türkiye from helping Moscow circumvent Western blocks on obtaining key technology. They also threaten foreign financial institutions with sanctions if they do business with almost any sanctioned Russian entity, underscoring the US view that the Kremlin has pivoted the Russian economy on to a war footing.
Biden and Zelensky will also sign a bilateral security agreement between the US and Ukraine on Thursday, when they meet on the G7 summit’s sidelines, the White House said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the agreement would not commit US troops directly to Ukraine’s defense, but that it would demonstrate the US supports the people of Ukraine and serve as a “bridge” to when Ukraine is invited to join the NATO alliance — a long-term priority of Zelensky’s that alliance members have said will first require an end to the war.
While the G7 meets in Italy, defense chiefs from the US, Europe and other nations will meet Thursday in Brussels for their monthly meeting on Ukraine’s security needs. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host the event.
And this weekend, representatives of nearly 90 countries and organizations, half from Europe, are expected to attend a summit in Switzerland aimed at charting a path to peace between Russia and Ukraine, though Russia won’t be attending.
Both sides in Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II have been reaching out to friendly nations to help keep their armed forces supplied. The war has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides, including more than 11,000 Ukrainian civilians, according to the United Nations.
While Ukraine has looked to Western countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned to nations such as Iran and North Korea for help. Unconfirmed reports suggested Putin may soon make a third visit to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moscow showed no signs of relenting in the war. The Kremlin said Wednesday that Putin met with Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, the chief of the military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and the commanders of Russia’s five military districts.
A readout of the Tuesday night meeting said the officials presented Putin with “plans to continue the hostilities.”
Fighting along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line has in recent months focused on the partly occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are trying to reach the key hilltop city of Chasiv Yar and other strategic hubs.
Last month, Russian forces also launched an offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, which borders Russia. Putin said he wanted to establish a buffer zone there to prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks. The offensive drew some Ukrainian fighters away from Donetsk.
However, Russia’s gains have been incremental and costly.
In the Kharkiv region, Russian units have become bogged down in Vovchansk, Ukraine Commander in Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.


Migrants dying in unprecedented numbers on Canary Islands route, NGO says

Updated 20 min 39 sec ago
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Migrants dying in unprecedented numbers on Canary Islands route, NGO says

  • Nearly 5,000 migrants have died at sea in first five months of 2024 trying to reach Spanish Canary Islands
  • Victims came from 17 different countries, mostly from African mainland but also Comoros Islands as well as Pakistan

ARGUINEGUIN, Spain: An unprecedented nearly 5,000 migrants have died at sea in the first five months of 2024 trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands, according to a report released by migration rights group Walking Borders on Wednesday.

Between Jan. 1 and May 31, 4,808 people died on the Atlantic voyage to the Canaries after departing from Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia, making it the deadliest route between Africa and Spain, with 95 percent of migrant deaths, according to the group.

Arrivals to the archipelago in that period soared five times to over 16,500 from a year ago, Interior Ministry data showed.

The Mediterranean route was the second deadliest, with 175 deaths on the crossing from Algeria to Spain’s southeastern shores. Another 71 people died on the Strait of Gibraltar and Alboran Sea that separate Spain from Morocco, bringing the total of victims on routes to Spain to 5,054 — an average of 33 per day.

“We cannot normalize these figures. We must demand that the various countries put the protocols of duty of care at sea and the defense of the right to life above migration control measures,” said the NGO’s coordinator, Helena Maleno.

The victims came from 17 different countries, mostly from the African mainland but also the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as Pakistan. They included 154 women and 50 children, the report said.

The head of the Red Cross in the Canary Islands, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Verona, said the Atlantic route was the most dangerous as the ocean’s rough weather conditions could easily cause the precarious vessels used by most migrants to capsize.

Migration expert and journalist Txema Santana said there were the political and economic ingredients of a “perfect storm” in West Africa that would likely see more mass arrivals to the Canaries in the upcoming summer and autumn seasons.

Last year, a record 39,910 migrants reached the Canary Islands and over 6,000 people died while attempting the perilous crossing. Rights groups expect that figure to be surpassed this year.