Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Trained Rats and Dogs, Other Innovative Approaches to Protect Wildlife from Trafficking Funded by Service Grants

October 21, 2016


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Rats are smart with a keen sense of smell, and one species -- the African giant pouched rat -- is being tested to see if it can help detect illegal shipments of pangolins and hardwood timber in Tanzania. Such innovative approaches to halt wildlife poaching and trafficking are being rewarded to the tune of more than $1.2 million in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants for 12 projects in 11 countries.

The ability of dogs to sniff out illegal wildlife shipments also is being used to aid anti-trafficking efforts Kyrgyzstan and Malawi, with grant funding going to help replicate successful programs already underway in other countries, including the United States.

“These grants provide much-needed resources to support projects on the ground where wildlife trafficking is decimating some of the Earth’s most cherished and most unusual species,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “These grant recipients are using pioneering approaches to address the illegal wildlife trade in the places where it starts and where demand for wildlife products feeds the criminal supply chain of illegal goods.”

Pangolins – the world’s most trafficked mammal, traded illegally for their scales and skin – are the focus of many of the grants, with projects funded in China, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam.  In China, one project will lay foundations for reducing consumer demand for pangolins in three provinces that are major hubs for their consumption.

Grant dollars also will go to work to:

  • Address illegal rosewood trade in Belize.
  • Train law enforcement officers in Cambodia.
  • Help forest patrols reduce poaching threats to tigers and other species in Indonesia.
  • Use sniffer dogs to combat trafficking in saiga horn in Kazakhstan.
  • Generate new information on trafficking routes in Peru.
  • Use community-based conservation initiatives to combat timber trafficking in Madagascar.
  • Support conservation-religion partnerships to combat illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia.
  • Protect wild populations of cycads, an ancient group of cone-producing plants, in South Africa.

These grants support implementation of President Obama’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The Service is identified as a lead or participating agency in all 24 of the strategy implementation plan’s objectives, reflecting the commitment and history of the agency in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

For more information on the grants and projects, please visit:

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