India Deploys Super-Sniffer Dogs to Protect Newly-Introduced Cheetahs from Poachers

​Golden retriever plays with a cheetah at the Columbus Zoo, 2016.

It’s been more than 70 years since Cheetahs sprinted across the hot plains of India, and now that they’re back, the Indian government is taking no chances on their safety.

That’s why they’re hiring specialists—six German shepherds to patrol the grounds of the 80,000 acre Kuno National Park for signs of poachers.

Asian News International reported that the dogs are undergoing a 7-month training program at the Tibetan Border Police Force’s National Training Center for Dogs, where they will hone their tracking skills and obedience.

Released on the 17th of September, five male cheetahs and three females were flown to India from a game reserve north of Windhoek, Namibia, in the first-ever international translocation of the animal. Declared extinct in India in 1952 mainly due to over hunting, the cheetah’s great stronghold lies in Namibia thanks to its open flat ground, sparse populations, and rich game numbers.

“Today the cheetah has returned to the soil of India,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video address. “The nature loving consciousness of India has also awakened with full force,” he added. “We must not allow our efforts to fail.”

South China Morning Post reports that Ilu the German shepherd and her teammates will also be taught to sniff out tiger bones, elephant tusks, and other highly-trafficked wildlife parts.

“Dogs trained at the ITBP dog training center have a high rate of wildlife crime detection,” Ishwar Singh Duhan, inspector general of basic training at the Tibetan facility, told ASI. “There are scores of success stories where dogs have helped in the arrest of poachers and recoveries of wildlife species and their remains.”

7,000 cheetahs exist across Africa, but the other major sub-species, the Asiatic cheetah is hanging on by a thread. It used to roam from Arabia through the Fertile Crescent and Zagros Mountains, all the way to India and Pakistan.

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The hope is that they will recover in India and create a growing, diverse population that will protect the species from localized catastrophe such as disease, drought, reduced genetic diversity, or civil war.

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