The Dog Patrol – Kazakhstan’s wildlife wardens
Danara Zharbolova & Alyona Krivosheyeva introduces Kazakhstan’s newest crack security squad – a dog patrol, trained to sniff out illegal wildlife trafficking.
The latest wildlife protection project from ACBK (BirdLife Kazakhstan) brings new-found meaning to the saying that ‘every dog has its day’. Back in April, ACBK and Fauna and Flora International (FFI) – with the financial support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and in the framework of the government-supported Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative – began training a special crack security squad. A squad intended to bring the long paw of the law to the seedy world of illegal wildlife trafficking.
Over three months, eight canine recruits were trained to sniff out drugs and wildlife contraband such as Central Asian tortoise, Saker falcons and horns from the Saiga antelope. At the closing ceremony in July, the four-legged graduates demonstrated their finely-honed skills in a ‘sniff-out’ exercise imitating the real working situations they will now face. The ‘Dog Patrol’ has now been deployed to customs and border points – notable hot spots for illegal trafficking of endangered fauna.
Sniffing exercise © ACBK
Tricks of the (wildlife) trade
Following the graduation ceremony, ACBK organised – together with the Cynology Centre and the Committee of Forestry & Wildlife (part of the Ministry of Agriculture) – an inter-departmental brainstorm on how to combat the dirty tricks of the illegal wildlife trade. As this issue is one that touches upon a vast array of sectors, the training included many representatives from various state bodies – from environmental and science agencies to the police, border services and state prosecutor’s office.
The discussion raised a number of pressing points – namely the need to develop guidelines and training schemes for the local application of the CITES Convention on illegal wildlife trade as well as a short manual for customs officers and border guards to use to identify wildlife contraband. The meeting also highlighted the need to tighten Kazakh legislation on poaching and broached the issue of what to do with animals confiscated at checkpoints.
The Sweet smell of success
Meanwhile, our new dog cadets join expert senior ‘sniffing’ officers Ginny and Aja who have already amassed a stellar record of results since their own training (the original pilot scheme) back in 2014. Within weeks of being on the job, Ginny prevented the illegal export of two pieces of Saiga horn at Kordai – an important customs point on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. In 2016, while patrolling the passenger terminal of Almaty International Airport, Ginny prevented two attempts at drug trafficking as well as seven separate attempts to export unreported monetary funds with a cumulative value of 129,400 USD.
Aja was also on top form last year. While guarding the Maykapchagai custom point in East Kazakhstan she prevented five instances of illegal export of Peonia anomala, a rare species of peony listed in the ‘Red Book’ of Kazakhstan. On several occasions, she also detected illegal bear derivatives such bile, teeth and claws.
It just goes to show that it really is, as they say, ‘a dog’s life’.
Danara Zharbolova – Head of Communications, ACBK (BirdLife Kazakhstan)
Alyona Krivosheyeva – Conservation Director, ACBK (BirdLife Kazakhstan)
 The “Altyn Dala” conservation Initiative (ADCI in Kazakh “golden steppe”) is a large-scale affliate program, implemented ba ACBK with the support of national and international conservation organizations. Its purpose is to save the key species of steppe and semi-desert habitats and improve the network of special protected areas in Central Kazakhstan. It is implemented by ACBK together with Frankfurt Zoological Society, Royal Society for the Protection of Birdts, Fauna and Flora International and The Forestry and Wildlife Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
 Cynology is the scientific study of canines and domestic dogs.