A team of true-blue forest officers of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in Assam have made everyone proud. After their first taste of success, two handlers and their four-legged colleague have taken the lead in nabbing criminals and battling illegal wildlife trade in the state.
Lively, tenacious and intelligent – Quarmy, a 14-month old female German Shepherd was deployed in Kaziranga’s Northern Range on December 21, 2017. Quarmy now has the distinction of being the first in her batch of trained wildlife sniffer dogs to help crack cases of attempted poaching.
On December 27, barely a week into her deployment, Quarmy was made to assist a team of forest officials on a search operation led by Range Officer Pranjal Baruah of the Northern Range, to the interiors of Panpur Reserve Forest, which forms the 6th Addition to KNP.
The team had information about poachers attempting to target a rhino in the area. Quarmy and her two handlers, Lakhi Nandan Baruah and Johnson Teron set out on their first mission.
Accused Gyan Das was not present when the dog squad reached the suspect’s house.
Quarmy collected the smell from a shirt used by Das and after trailing him for almost two hours, reached a pond. The dog pointed to her handler about something inside waist-deep water. A search was initiated and within a few minutes, a .303 rifle and a silencer were recovered from the bottom of the pond.
The next day, accused Gyan Das was arrested from Simaluguri village of Biswanath district. During identification, Quarmy easily sniffed out the suspect.
The success story of Quarmy and her handler has now raised standards for other wildlife sniffer dogs deployed at various tiger reserves across India.
“It was Quarmy’s intelligence that helped us thwart a poaching attempt in Kaziranga. The dog helped us recover weapons hidden by the accused before he decided to abscond,” said Pranjal Baruah, Ranger, Northern Range of KNP.
This was also Quarmy’s first field operation after an intensive eight months’ training at the BSF-run National Training Centre for Dogs in Tekanpur in Gwalior.
She was one of the 13 dogs to be trained under the wildlife sniffer dog training programme and passed with a ‘bravo’ grade. She now lives at a temporary kennel inside the park’s Northern Range with her handler.
Quarmy was only 6 months old when Lakhi, a casual employee of the Kaziranga forest division, first met her in April last year.
“I had never stepped close to a dog before. Initially, I was a bit scared, but Quarmy has changed my life and for the past 10 months, I have not stayed away from her even for a single day. We have a very strong connection,” he said.
Quarmy and Lakhi would get up at 4:30 am for their dawn to dusk training. The dogs and their handlers were trained and tested on their agility, speed, tracking and search abilities.
“The canines are especially trained to fight poachers. They are also trained to sniff out even the smallest traces of banned wildlife products such as ivory, leopard and tiger skin and bones, tiger claws and hyena skin. I wish to start training Quarmy to sniff out rhino horns, because that is what Kaziranga is all about,” said Lakhi Nandan.
Dr Satyendra Singh, former director of Kaziranga National Park, added, “This exceptional performance from a newly-trained dog shows the quality of training that both the dog and handler has undergone. It adds to our capability in nabbing poachers, suspected persons, search and seizure.”