|The guarded: A rhino at Kaziranga
Guwahati, Oct. 13: Rhino poachers in Assam will be up against a breed of dog that is said to have helped bring Osama bin Laden down.
Two Malinoises — Belgian shepherd dogs — imported from Slovakia will add teeth to anti-poaching efforts at the Kaziranga National Park, and are now being acclimatised in Guwahati.
A Malinois is said to have been part of the US Navy Seals team that raided Osamas Abbottabad lair in Pakistan and killed him.
Famed for its ability to sniff out explosives and enemy warriors, the Malinois has been successfully deployed as military dogs by the US and European forces. But this is the first time the breed will be used in wildlife crime detection in Asia.
Jorba (male) has been financed by the London-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and brought to Assam by Aaranyak, a biodiversity research and conservation group. Czarina (female) has been financed by Kaushik Barua, a wildlife lover.
The dogs are trained in detection and tracking. The reason we have brought this particular breed is its extreme prey-drive capability, Aaranyak secretary-general Bibhab Talukdar said.
The only requirement for the dogs to succeed is that the site of poaching must be left undisturbed so that they can pick up clues.
Barua said: Even if you fire at these dogs, they are not cowed. Instead, they hit back. The dogs will be in action very soon.
Assam forest officials best efforts have so far failed to stop poachers from killing wild animals, including rhinos.
D.D. Gogoi, divisional forest officer, eastern Assam wildlife division, said the deployment of the Malinoises would definitely put the poachers under psychological pressure.
Guidelines will have to be framed so that the field personnel know the dos and donts. Any effort in the conservation of Kaziranga is always welcome, he said.
The Malinois is often confused with the German Shepherd (Alsatian) but there are differences in the two breeds body structure and temperament. The Belgian dog is smaller and has lighter bones. It stands with its weight on its toes, which gives it a square body profile, while the German Shepherd has a long and sloping back and carries its weight flatter on its feet.
The two Malinoises will continue to strengthen anti-poaching activities in Kaziranga, a statement from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation said. It added the breed was capable of picking up a scent and tracking, outrunning and bringing down suspects.
There are reports that Belgian Malinoises will be deployed by the security forces in the Maoist zones of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh too.