Skip to main content
In Brief

Man's Best Friend to Sniff Out Smuggled Wildlife

Dog trained to sniff illegal wildlife
Wildlife Inspector Amir Lawal and wildlife-sniffing dog Viper. (Image 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.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.