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.


Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above
Updated 13 sec ago

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above
STOCKHOLM: Sweden will start offering COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 65 or older as well as many care workers and plans to gradually extend the third jabs to most Swedes in the coming months, the government said on Wednesday.
The booster shots of mRNA vaccine will be gradually extended to cover all people in the Nordic country aged 16 or older during the winter and spring, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.
“It is thanks to the fact that so many have been vaccinated that we can live our lives a little bit more as usual,” Hallengren said. “Now we offer booster shots to 1.5 million more.”
The health care staff to be offered boosters included all employees involved in home care, nursing homes and assisted living programs.
Infections remain at fairly low levels four weeks after almost all restrictions and recommendations were abolished in Sweden. Still, deaths have started to slowly edge higher after a slow summer, pushing the toll over the course of the pandemic above the 15,000 mark this week.
“According to studies, we notice a diminishing antibody effect. We saw during the summer that we had outbreaks in nursing homes,” Public Health Agency head Johan Carlson said. “A third dose provides a substantial increase in antibodies.”
Previously, people living in elderly care homes and those aged 80 or older were eligible for a booster shot six months after the second dose. Around 85 percent of all Swedes aged 16 or above have had one vaccine shot and 80 percent have had two shots or more.
In recent weeks, vaccinations have also been offered to children in the 12-15 age group though only relatively few have received inoculations so far.

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast
Updated 30 min 27 sec ago

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast
  • Carl Decaluwé told AP that all 24 passengers were rescued but that one of the migrants was in serious condition

BRUSSELS: A small boat transporting 24 migrants was rescued Wednesday from the North Sea by emergency services off the coast of Zeebrugge, according to the governor of Belgium’s West Flanders province.
Carl Decaluwé told AP that all 24 passengers were rescued but that one of the migrants was in serious condition.
The Belgian air force said it sent an helicopter to the scene after receiving a distress call and a medic boarded the shipwrecked boat close to an offshore wind farm area. The air force said the Belgian Navy also provided assistance.
Decaluwé said five migrants were airlifted to safety, with the 19 others transported back to land by boat. He said authorities had yet to determine where the migrants came from.


Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia
Updated 31 min 58 sec ago

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia
  • Pact would further strengthen Australia’s diplomatic and security ties in the fast-growing region
  • China has also sought an agreement on the same strategic level with ASEAN

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed at a summit on Wednesday to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” a sign of Canberra’s ambition to play a bigger role in the region.
The pact would further strengthen Australia’s diplomatic and security ties in a fast-growing region that has become a strategic battleground between the United States and China.
While concrete strategic objectives of the partnership were not immediately announced, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised Australia would “back it with substance.”
“This milestone underscores Australia’s commitment to ASEAN’s central role in the Indo-Pacific and positions our partnership for the future,” he said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Marise Payne. “Australia supports a peaceful, stable, resilient, and prosperous region, with ASEAN at its heart.”
Brunei, serving as chair of ASEAN, said the agreement “marked a new chapter in relations” and would be “meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial.”
After the announcement, Australia said it would invest $154 million in projects in Southeast Asia on health and energy security, counter-terrorism, fighting and transnational crime, plus hundreds of scholarships.
China has also sought an agreement on the same strategic level with ASEAN. Premier Li Keqiang met ASEAN leaders on Tuesday, and the bloc’s leaders will meet China’s President Xi Jinping in November at a special summit, to be held virtually, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Australia already has bilateral strategic partnerships of various levels with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam.
STABILITY AND SECURITY
Morrison also sought to reassure ASEAN that a trilateral security pact agreed last month between the United States, Britain and Australia, under which Australia will get access to nuclear-powered submarines, would be no threat to the region.
One ambassador to ASEAN, who asked not to be identified, said Australia clinching the comprehensive strategic partnership with ASEAN was “quite something” in the wake of regional reservations over its new AUKUS pact with Washington and London.
“Kudos to Australia,” the ambassador said.
AUKUS has raised some concerns in Southeast Asia that China could see it as a move by the West to challenge its growing influence in the region, particularly in the South China Sea.
The United States and allies have increased patrols to challenge Beijing’s vast maritime fleet which it deploys to buttress its claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
“AUKUS adds to our network of partnerships that support regional stability and security,” Morrison said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday said he was concerned AUKUS “could spark rivalry in the region,” according to his foreign minister, Retno Marsudi.
US ally the Philippines has backed AUKUS but its president, Rodrigo Duterte, on Wednesday said it “must complement and not complicate our working methods for cooperation.”
Military analysts have said the nuclear submarines Australia will purchase from the United States have unmatched stealth and underwater longevity. China has opposed the pact and said it could be damaging and intensify an arms race.
US President Joe Biden was due to join the virtual East Asia Summit later on Wednesday, with leaders of China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and South Korea, Japan and ASEAN members.
In an earlier meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed to Southeast Asian leaders his country’s strong opposition to challenges to a free and open maritime order, underscoring regional concerns about China’s growing military clout.


Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute
Updated 27 October 2021

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute
  • The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts
  • The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters

BRUSSELS: European Union founding member Belgium warned Poland on Wednesday not to treat the EU like “a cash machine” to boost its economic fortunes while disregarding its democratic and rule of law principles at will.
“You cannot pocket all the money but refuse the values,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the opening of the College of Bruges, an academic well of European thinkers.
De Croo targeted Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who accused the EU of threatening “World War III” for insisting that Poland should respect the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of EU law. The Belgian prime minister said his Polish counterpart was “playing with fire when waging war with your European colleagues for internal political reasons.”
The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts. The EU believes the changes erode democratic checks and balances, and the European Commission is holding up billions of euros to Poland earmarked in a pandemic recovery plan.
The war of words also comes on the heels of an EU summit, where Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country made would not undermine the EU failed to convince key bloc leaders.
Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda later Wednesday.
Morawiecki’s recalcitrance crystalized in an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend. When asked if Poland could use its veto power to block legislation in retaliation, for instance on climate issues, Morawiecki said: “If they start the third world war, we are going to defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal.”
The interview did not go down well with Morawiecki’s EU colleagues. “You are playing a dangerous game,” De Croo said.
“This is about the overwhelming majority of member states – from the Baltics to Portugal — who agree our Union is a union of values, not a cash machine,” De Croo said, alluding to the fact that Poland has long been a major net recipient of EU funds.
The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters, including migration and LGBT rights. The longest running dispute, however, has centered on the Polish government’s attempts to take political control of the judiciary.
The matter came to a head earlier this month when the constitutional court ruled that some key parts of EU law are not compatible with the nation’s constitution. The ruling by a court stacked with ruling party loyalists was made after Morawiecki asked it to decide on whether EU or national law has primacy.


Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
Updated 27 October 2021

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
  • Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Greg Kelly
  • The only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to Ghosn

TOKYO: Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly said Wednesday he was “not guilty of any crime” as the defense wrapped up its case in Tokyo, where he faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.
Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, a US citizen and former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.
Kelly, 65, is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to auto tycoon Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box in December 2019.
“I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy, and I am not guilty of any crime,” Kelly said in his closing remarks at the Tokyo District Court.
The actions taken “to find a lawful way to retain Mr.Carlos Ghosn after he retired were in the best interests of Nissan,” he added.
His defense lawyers said prosecutors had failed to prove Kelly was behind an alleged plot to under-report Ghosn’s compensation over several years.
The charges against Kelly involve around 9.1 billion yen ($80 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.
“It is clear that the prosecution’s portrayal of Kelly is unfairly distorted,” Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura told the court.
“There’s no indication that Kelly had any personal interest in considering the payment for Ghosn ... the only possible conclusion in this case is acquittal.”
Kelly and Ghosn — a fugitive in Lebanon — were arrested in Tokyo in 2018, sending shock waves through the business world.
They have both maintained their innocence, saying no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.
“There was no crime,” Kelly said outside court after the hearing. “Carlos Ghosn never was paid anything. And there was no enforceable agreement.”
“Three and a half years, is that being given the right to a speedy trial?” he said, adding he had liked working for Ghosn, but “wasn’t his friend.”
Nissan, standing trial as a company alongside Kelly, has pleaded guilty and on Wednesday asked the judge for leniency ahead of the verdict on March 3.
Prosecutors have demanded Nissan be fined 200 million yen, but the firm’s lawyers said the alleged misconduct “was carried out to benefit Ghosn” and not the company.
It comes after Rahm Emanuel, nominated as the next US ambassador to Japan, said last week he would prioritize Kelly’s case.
“The number one responsibility of an embassy ambassador is to ensure the safety of a US citizen on foreign soil,” Emanuel told the Senate.
“I’m going to be approaching this subject as a former US congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart.”