Dogs trained to help sniff out Sungazers: smugglers beware!

In May 2013, the National Zoo’s Veterinary Nurse, Sister Marilise Meyer, was tasked to assist with the scenting of cloth to train sniffer dogs at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The project was initiated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).
The dogs are trained to detect the presence of Sungazer’s being smuggled out of the country.

The first step was to “contaminate” sterile cloth material with the scent of a Sungazer, all the while preventing the cross-contamination of smells. Sungazers were placed inside a sterile container for a period of 24 hours, allowing the reptiles to leave their scent on the cloths through faeces and urine. The Sungazer’s were removed and the scent-marked cloths were transferred back into a sealed glass container.

The container with the scented material was collected by the EWT and will be used for the training of sniffer dogs. Read more about the training in future issues of Zoo e-News.
Sungazer’s are smuggled out of South Africa to countries in North America, Europe and the Far East for the pet trade. As these reptiles are endemic and indigenous to South Africa, a permit from the relevant department of nature conservation is needed to capture, transport and own a Sungazer. Without this permit, ownership is considered to be illegal and a criminal offence.
Setting the scent