London dogs head to Thailand to sniff out pangolin smugglers

LONDON (Reuters) - Two Labrador dogs, which have been trained by British police, are to be flown to Thailand to help crack down on the smuggling of critically endangered pangolins, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said on Tuesday.

Pangolins, nocturnal creatures famed for their full armour of scales, are the most trafficked mammal in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund, and all eight species are on the red list of threatened species and at risk of extinction, the ZSL said.

The two dogs, Buster and Bess, who have already undergone an eight-week training programme with London's Metropolitan Police, will be sent to Thailand to complete their training, and then use their sniffing skills to detect pangolins being smuggled through airports, ports and by road.

"Not all heroes wear capes: some walk on all fours and have extremely powerful noses," said ZSL Pangolin Technical Specialist Georgina Gerard.

"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."

Despite there being a ban on global trade of pangolins since 2017, the mammal is victim to high levels of poaching and illegal trade for their meat, scales and other body parts.

(Reporting by Gerhard Mey and Muvija M; Editing by Sharon Singleton)