Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife

Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife
Bailey at her induction as the country’s first wildlife detection dog. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 March 2021

Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife

Sniffer dogs giving their two scents to detect smuggled wildlife
  • The training of new sniffer dogs follows the success of Bailey, Indonesia’s first wildlife detection dog, who was first deployed by authorities in 2018

JAKARTA: An Indonesian group of animal rights activists is giving rescue dogs a chance to put their paws on a new career path by detecting and tracking smuggled wildlife in the country, which is a global hub of illicit trade for endangered and protected animals.

The canine scheme, promoted by Indonesian animal rights activists, looks to tackle the rampant problem in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

The training of new sniffer dogs follows the success of Bailey, Indonesia’s first wildlife detection dog, who was first deployed by authorities in 2018.

A brown female cocker spaniel who turns four in May, Bailey has put her nose to good use in the past few years by sniffing out wild animals that are smuggled through some of the busiest ports and inter-island crossings across Indonesia, helping authorities foil several wildlife trafficking cases in high-profile busts.

“We have eight dogs being trained, and we are expanding, but we are not training specific dog breeds since they are rescue dogs. Some of them are even mixed breeds. Basically, we are giving them a second chance in life,” Femke den Haas, an animal rights activist and co-founder of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), told Arab News.

Bailey and her posse work for the National Police canine squad, which includes big, bulky German Shepherds, Belgian Malinoises, and Golden or Labrador Retrievers that can be intimidating for some people. Therefore, Bailey, as a friendly, cuddly dog, is an ideal fit for the force.

“We work together with authorities to put the dogs at work, but it is our team handling them, because they need to have a handler that is always with them and whom they trust,” Den Haas said, adding that it was “very important” to provide the dogs with the best possible care, train them professionally and keep them motivated to do the job.

“It needs to be fun for them. It is like a game for them, and we make the game more fun. The nice thing about it is that while they are having fun, we can catch the smugglers, so, it is a great combination,” Den Haas said, adding that the dogs and their handlers constantly travel to harbors and airports across Indonesia.

The training times of the working dogs depends on the breed, and because endangered animals are so diverse, JAAN handlers ensure that the dogs learn the scents of various species through training programs.

JAAN works with the Netherlands-based Scent Imprint for Dogs (SIFD) program, which helps train police and service dogs.

The SIFD supervises projects and trains dogs to detect unique wildlife species and commonly trafficked animal parts, such as skin and ivory.

It was in the program where Den Haas first met Bailey when she was attending a course to establish a wildlife detection program in JAAN.

The family that owned Bailey gave her up for adoption as a wildlife detection dog, because they thought Bailey “did not belong inside a house” and needed to be in working mode.

To instill a sense of confidence in the family that Bailey was being put to good use, Den Haas offered to try her for Indonesia’s wildlife detection program.

“This is how we got Bailey. She is our pioneer and the leader of the project, having found most of the smuggled animals. She is really the star,” Den Haas said.

Bailey’s skill was apparent from her first day on the job. She was introduced to the public during an event at the Dutch Embassy’s cultural center in Jakarta, with then-ambassador Rob Swartbol and officials from the police and agriculture ministry’s animal quarantine center in attendance.

Before her introduction, Bailey went through a quarantine and health check-up and hit the ground running during her probation period to detect cargo in Sumatra’s Lampung and Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok ports, where she showed off her sniffing prowess.

Indonesia is home to more than 300,000 wildlife species — about 17 percent of the world’s wildlife — including hundreds with threatened, endangered, vulnerable, and critically endangered status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Wildlife trafficking is a lucrative global business that rakes in between $7 and $23 billion per year around the world.

In Indonesia, it is the third most rampant crime, and is worth more than 13 trillion Indonesian rupiahs per year ($900 million), according to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Tens of thousands of animals, including common birds, reptiles, mammals, primates and turtles, are smuggled across Indonesia, despite many having protected or endangered status.

M. Hariyanto, a spokesman for the Environment and Forestry Ministry Sumatra regional law enforcement office, told Arab News that sniffer dogs had helped officials locate 272 birds kept in a bus bound for the ferry crossing to Java on Friday.

Personnel from the conservation, quarantine agencies, and JAAN categorized 135 of the birds as protected.

“The smugglers stashed the birds in the engine compartment, but the dogs were able to detect the birds,” Hariyanto said.

On March 3, Lampung authorities seized 1,090 birds stashed in plastic and cardboard boxes in a minivan, with 145 of them having protected status. On Feb. 25, authorities also confiscated 105 protected birds from a villager in East Lampung district.

“A dog’s nose can always be trusted. It’s the best detection tool there is,” Den Haas said.


First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
The Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help. (ANJ Photo)
Updated 17 September 2021

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
  • An imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims
  • “This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community,” said Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid

TOKYO: Muslims held the first Friday prayers at a new mosque and community center established in the Nishi Kasai district in Edogawa, one of the 23 wards of Tokyo.

On the second floor, an imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims, while loudspeakers conveyed the audio to the first floor of the building in an area set up for females worshippers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community as well as our neighbors and local community and society at large,” the Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid told Arab News Japan. “We are offering our services, to serve Islam, to teach Islamic values and teachings in this society and community.”

Nishi Kasai is about 15 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

Abdul Wahid said the Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help.

Haroon Qureshi, Secretary-General of the Japan Islamic Trust, told Arab News Japan that the establishment is run by the Japan Islamic Trust, a religious organization running nine mosques in Japan.

“We are thankful for the cooperation of the local Muslims in Japan and many donors from more than 70 countries,” he said.

Abdullah Baba, president of Nishi Kasai Center, said they established their community seven years ago when there were 12-15 families, which increased to 80 families. The new center will provide important help for them.


Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
Updated 17 September 2021

Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
  • A statement published on Facebook Friday did not include girls of that age

ISTANBUL: The Taliban’s education ministry says all male students of grades 6 to 12 and male teachers should resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday.
The statement published on Facebook on Friday did not include girls of that age, and the lack of guidance highlighted ongoing concerns that the Taliban might impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking over power last month, the Taliban had allowed girls in grades one to six to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from attending school and work.
In some of the provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for women who have worked in health departments, hospitals and education.

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Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
Updated 17 September 2021

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
  • An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts

VIENNA: A civil trial opened Friday in Austria over the government’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths.
Sieglinde and Ullrich Schopf, the widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man who died of COVID-19 after becoming infected in Ischgl, are seeking about 100,000 euros ($117,000) compensation from the government. Their is seen as a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to the Paznaun valley in February and March 2020.
The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.
The outbreak in Ischgl, a popular resort in western Austria, is considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.
“Stopping people from leaving and arriving in the Paznaun valley or at least issuing a travel warning — the authorities failed to do that,” said Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing the Schopf family. “Thousands of people left the Paznaun valley unhindered, thousands of people arrived without a clue that they were in danger.”
An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in the valley after it became clear they were dealing with one of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreaks in March. But the panel didn’t find evidence that political or business pressure played a role in the decisions.
Klauser, the lawyer, said that even after authorities issued a directive to close apres-ski bars it wasn’t enforced strongly enough.
“Open air mass gatherings which were forbidden according to the directive continued,” he said. “The police just watched on without doing anything.”


Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis
Updated 17 September 2021

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on Friday condemned Houthi attacks earlier this month on Saudi Arabia.

“On September 4, a missile attack in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia was launched and repeated transporter attacks by Houthis against Saudi Arabia have been carried out. We strongly condemn such actions,” Motegi told Arab News Japan at a press conference.

Motegi stressed that the Japanese government was attempting to help in negotiations in order for a truce to be reached between the Houthis and various other parties.

“We very much support the activity by Ambassador Grandberg, Special Envoy for Yemen of the United Nations, and various other initiatives to end the disputes in Yemen and in the international community,” Motegi said.

The Japanese minister said during his recent visit to the Middle East, he more firmly supported a peaceful truce in Yemen.

Motegi said Japan will continue to collaborate with the relevant countries within and outside of the Middle East to achieve peace and security in Yemen.

“Ninety percent of the crude oil arriving in Japan comes from the Middle East and from such perspective peace and stability in the region is of crucial importance for Japan.”


Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station
Updated 17 September 2021

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station
  • The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule
  • State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert

BEIJING: A trio of Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after a 90-day stay aboard their nation’s first space station in China’s longest mission yet.
Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship just after 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) after having undocked from the space station Thursday morning.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert where it was met by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began opening the hatch of the capsule, which appeared undamaged.
The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule to allow them time to readjust to Earth’s gravity after three months of living in a weightless environment. The three were due to fly to Beijing on Friday.
“With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe there will even more astronauts who will set new records,” mission commander Nie told CCTV.
After launching on June 17, the three astronauts went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm, and had a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
While few details have been made public by China’s military, which runs the space program, astronaut trios are expected to be brought on 90-day missions to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.
The government has not announced the names of the next set of astronauts nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.
China has sent 14 astronauts into space since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.
China’s space program has advanced at a measured pace and has largely avoided many of the problems that marked the US and Russian programs that were locked in intense competition during the heady early days of spaceflight.
That has made it a source of enormous national pride, complementing the country’s rise to economic, technological, military and diplomatic prominence in recent years under the firm rule of the Communist Party and current leader Xi Jinping.
China embarked on its own space station program in the 1990s after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to US objections to the Chinese space program’s secrecy and military backing.
China has simultaneously pushed ahead with uncrewed missions, placing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and, in December, the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.
China this year also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, with its accompanying Zhurong rover venturing out to look for evidence of life.
Another program calls for collecting samples from an asteroid, an area in which Japan’s rival space program has made progress of late.
China also plans to dispatch another mission in 2024 to bring back lunar samples and is pursuing a possible crewed mission to the moon and eventually building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.