Image: © ZSL
The Zoological Society of London have introduced their next two conservation superstars, Bess and Buster the labradors, who will be tasked with fighting wildlife crime in Thailand. The newest faces in paw enforcement today enjoyed a trip to ZSL’s headquarters at London Zoo where they met their new conservation colleagues.
Bess and Buster have recently completed their training course with the Metropolitan Police in London and in April will fly to Thailand and join the ZSL team who work alongside conservationists and border force operatives. The pair have been trained to detect scents. In Thailand they will transition from the scents used for training to determining the scent of pangolins which may be being smuggled through airports, ports or roads allowing them to be rescued and released to the wild.
During their day out at ZSL London Zoo Buster and Bess were able to meet ZSL Pangolin Technical Specialist Georgina Gerard and ZSL Thailand Country Manager, May Moe Wah, showed off their expert detection skills, visited the iconic zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony and were presented with cuddly pangolin plushies for their travels – from the zoo’s range of fundraising soft toys.
“Not all heroes wear capes: some walk on all fours and have extremely powerful noses,” explained ZSL Pangolin Technical Specialist Georgina Gerard. “Protecting species is a core priority for ZSL, so we were excited to welcome Buster and Bess to ZSL headquarters today, to meet some of their new colleagues and showcase their newfound skills – before they jet off to start their new life sniffing out wildlife crime and protecting pangolins.”
All eight species of pangolin found across Africa and Asia are now threatened with extinction. A ban on their trade was introduced in 2017 but this has not curbed demand for their meat, scales and body parts. As many as 200,000 pangolins are believed to be traded each year.
Explaining why Buster and Bess will be such invaluable members of the team, ZSL Law Enforcement Specialist Grant Miller MBE said:
“Intelligence has been telling us that live pangolins are being trafficked all across Thailand – mainly by road. Some vehicles even have purpose-built concealed areas to transport the Critically Endangered species. The question was, how to stop it. Before joining ZSL, I worked at UK Border Force, so I have first-hand knowledge of how effective these dogs can be in helping to deter and detect smuggling – they’re as highly trained as Olympic athletes, so we know they’ll be perfect for the job.”
The crime-fighting effort has been led by ZSL in collaboration with the MET Police and United for Wildlife and is made possible through funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and DP World, with the deployment of Buster and Bess in Thailand following on from ZSL’s previous work introducing sniffer dog units to hotspots for illegal wildlife trade in Mongolia.
Pangolins are also known as scaly anteaters due to the hard, plate like scales which cover their body. When threatened they roll their body in to a ball and use the sharp scales for their protection. Unfortunately even this defence has not been enough to protect them from humans.
Image: © ZSL
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