Little is known about four dogs attached to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) that cost taxpayers Ksh3 million.
Diva, Tibo, Ram and Kira are part of an elite K-9 unit that proves useful in inspecting suspect cargo, with a particular focus on snuffing out illegal trade in wildlife items such as ivory.
A report by Standard Digital revealed that the four dogs are based at the Coast and are typically deployed to key installations including the Mombasa International Airport and the Port of Mombasa.
Several international reports have pinpointed the Port of Mombasa as a key transit hub for illegal wildlife items that include tusks and hides.
The dogs are also occasionally deployed to airports in Malindi and Diani as well as the Manda Bay airfield.
The trained dogs are accompanied by six handlers who co-ordinate operations to examine cargo headed for various destinations.
Emmanuel Wafula, the head of the Mombasa-based canine unit, told Standard Digital that the dogs were shipped from Europe at a young age and proceeded to undergo intense training.
He further disclosed that the four are among only a few dogs in the country that hold valid passports.
“These are among the few dogs in the country with travel documents. The passports have details about their dates of birth, gender and other ‘personal’ information.
"The dogs are primarily trained in detecting ivory, rhino horns and pangolin scales. Since their deployment, cases of illegal wildlife trafficking have decreased,” he revealed.
Training involves getting the dogs to easily identify illegal items buried among other items in cases, similar to real life situations where suitcases are inspected at ports of entry.
Whenever the dogs detect something suspicious, they sit by the specific case prompting their handler to react.
“Man’s best friend is a trafficker’s worst nightmare. Dogs’ incredible sense of smell means they can sniff out even the tiniest amount in a 40-foot container,” WWF East Africa Wildlife Crime coordinator Drew McVey told the publication.
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