Wildlife Inspector Amir Lawal and wildlife-sniffing dog Viper.
Credit: Tom MacKenzie/USFWS
Trying to smuggle illegal elephant ivory or rhino horn across the U.S. border? You'll have to get past Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket.
Those are the four retrievers graduating today from a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program to train dogs to sniff out illegal wildlife smuggling at ports, border crossings, airports and even FedEx and UPS centers. (Yep, smugglers are that sneaky.) Viper & Co. just completed a 13-week training course in Georgia that normally drills pups on sniffing out potential agricultural pests hitching a ride on international shipments. The amazing nasal talent that allows dogs to sniff out pests, bombs, drugs and more comes in handy when dealing with the illegal wildlife trade, which is threatening elephants and rhinos in particular. A few years ago, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature even airlifted critically endangered black rhinoceroses to a protected range to keep them safe them from poachers, suspending them by the ankles from helicopters. Yes, there are pictures.