NAIROBI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- African conservationists, law enforcement and customs officers on Tuesday called on their governments to invest in tracking and detection canines in order to boost the war against illegal trafficking of wildlife products.
Speaking at a regional training workshop in Nairobi, the officials said the deployment of canines at ports of entry will strengthen apprehension and prosecution of criminals trafficking contraband goods like elephant tusks and rhino horns.
Julius Kimani, the Acting Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said the use of highly trained sniffer dogs has injected vitality in the fight against wildlife crimes that have become a security and ecological threat in Africa.
"The use of detection dogs to apprehend traffickers of illegal wildlife products, particularly in entry and exit points like airports and sea ports, has proved to be an effective way of nabbing illegal dealers of wildlife products," said Kimani.
Custom officials, prosecutors, detectives and campaigners drawn from eight countries in east and central Africa attended the Nairobi forum on "Using Detection Dogs to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in Africa."
The three-day workshop organized by Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) sought to increase awareness among participants on effective use of detection canines to boost the arrest and prosecution of poachers.
Kimani said African wildlife agencies have appreciated the critical role of sniffer dogs in their quest to root out poaching of iconic species like large mammals, carnivores, birds and reptiles.
"Many law enforcement agencies across Africa have embraced detection dogs as a key enforcement tool. Greater use of these dogs translates into successful prosecutions and more deterrent penalties meted out to offenders," Kimani said.
He revealed that the KWS has acquired 25 sniffer dogs which are managed by 40 trained personnel to help detect illegal shipment of wildlife products across borders.
African countries should incorporate the use of sniffer dogs in their anti-poaching activities in a bid to save the remaining population of elephants and rhinos from extinction, he said.
Philip Muruthi, the Vice President in charge of Species Conservation at AWF, said that detection canines have proved to be effective in disrupting smuggling of trophies in the continent.
"Agencies involved in the fight against trafficking of ivory have an opportunity to eradicate this transnational crime if they deploy sniffer dogs in all ports of entry," Muruthi said.
He added that investments in detection canines alongside enhanced surveillance and community participation will strengthen protection of threatened wildlife species in Africa like giraffes, lions and pangolins.