JAKARTA: With her sharp sense of smell, Bailey can often be found sniffing out passengers’ suitcases and bags as well as dozens of trucks passing through a busy ferry harbour connecting two of Indonesia’s biggest islands.
She is sometimes flown to other parts of the vast archipelago nation to assist law enforcers in tracking down criminals and locating where they stash their goods.
At least once a week, Bailey finds what she is looking for and immediately alerts her handler of the scents she has been trained to track down - endangered and protected animals.
“Most of the wildlife Bailey discovered were alive and being trafficked as pets,” Femke den Haas, an Indonesia-based animal rights activist told CNA.
Den Haas is the co-founder of Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), a non-profit organisation which is caring for Bailey. She said Bailey has also intercepted slaughtered protected animals and their products, including stuffed animals, skeletons, as well as ivories and horns which are either meant as collectibles or for the production of Asian herbal medicines.
Bailey, a soon-to-be four-year-old cocker spaniel with a joyous and playful demeanour, is Indonesia’s first wildlife detection dog.
According to Den Haas, Bailey has so far rescued at least 6,000 life animals and foiled the shipments of countless dead animals after less than three years on the job.
Bailey has also helped unravel major wildlife trafficking cases in Indonesia, home to hundreds of endemic species and considered to be one of the world’s hotspots for the trafficking of protected and endangered animals.
According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, illegal wildlife trafficking costs the country 13 trillion rupiah (US$912 million) in losses annually, excluding the cost of rehabilitating seized animals.
A NATURAL TALENT
Bailey was born to a dog breeder who sold her as a puppy to a family living in the Netherlands. Months later, Bailey grew up to be a hyperactive dog which does not like to sit still.
“(Bailey) is not the type of dogs that can live in a house. She would jump on the table. She’s always busy. She’s always active. The family was going crazy. They couldn’t handle her. They wanted to get rid of her,” Den Haas said.
Around the same time, Den Haas, a Dutch activist who has lived in Indonesia for almost 20 years, was thinking of ways to stop wildlife trafficking. “I thought detection dogs might be the most effective tool to trace them. They have been used in Africa to combat poaching and I thought the same techniques could be applied here,” she said.
Den Haas then reached out to different institutions about her idea. One institution, Scent Imprint for Dogs (SIFD), which has a training centre in Den Haas’s home country, agreed to work with her.
“I never thought about getting a dog from Holland but when I was in Holland to do a course with (SIFD), there was this dog named Bailey,” she said. “(Bailey’s original owners) had reached out to SIFD. They didn’t want her to be rehomed to another family because she’s more fitting as a working line dog and not a pet.”
Most law enforcement agencies and security companies the institute was working with prefer big, muscular and fierce-looking detection dogs and not a small and friendly cocker spaniel like Bailey.
However, in Den Haas’s eyes, Bailey was perfect. “We needed a dog that is not a scary German shepherd. Particularly because (wildlife detection dogs) were something completely new in Indonesia and in Indonesia, some people are scared of dogs for religious reasons. She’s perfect because she’s not intimidating, she’s small, she’s easy to handle,” Den Haas said.
“Everything just came together just at the right time. I stayed in Holland to get to know her and train with her. Bailey is very, very nice to everybody. She is a loving dog with a high energy and a very high working drive.”
Bailey was nine months old when she completed her training in the Netherlands in February 2018. By that time, she had been trained to detect anything from endangered primates to exotic birds that are endemic to Indonesia.
Den Haas then took Bailey to Indonesia, where she spent the next few months acclimatising to the weather in the tropical country as well as to get to know and spend time with JAAN’s Indonesian team.
DEALING WITH MAJOR CASES
Bailey worked on her first case in May 2018, just days after her first birthday.
“The Dutch police reached out to the Indonesian police and to us to build a case against this trader in Holland,” Den Haas said.
Police in the Netherlands began investigating the case since 2016 when a number of cargo containers stuffed with collectibles made from protected Indonesian wildlife were intercepted by customs officials in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
Through years of investigation, the Dutch police learned that the collectibles were smuggled by a Dutch man living in Bali. The man had been smuggling hundreds of protected animals from Indonesia since 2013.
Police in Indonesia were able to arrest the man and with Bailey’s help raided his house and several art and antique shops where he purchased the wild animals from. The art and antique shops owners were also arrested and hundreds of items, all made from endangered Indonesian animals, were confiscated.
The case caught nationwide attention both in the Netherlands and in Indonesia. Police officers from both countries who were involved in the case were commended for their work.
“For us it was very special because Bailey was involved and it was a very important case. We’re really proud,” Den Haas said.
Since then, Bailey had foiled countless wildlife trafficking cases from the smuggling of dozens of baby orangutans and gibbons to be sold as pets to the shipment of hundreds of green sea turtles which were bound to be harvested for their shells and meat.
“Bailey finds animals almost on a weekly basis and in big numbers because poachers don’t usually smuggle animals in small amounts,” Den Haas said.
Bailey now works primarily from an undisclosed location in Sumatra, where much of the primates sold as pets in Java and Bali came from. She also travels around the country to assist officials in collecting evidence against poachers and wildlife traffickers.
PART OF A GROWING FAMILY
Since Bailey, JAAN has trained and employed five other wildlife detection dogs stationed in various areas across the country. JAAN, Den Haas said, is training its seventh dog.
“(SIFD) mentors also came to Indonesia to keep improving the skills of our trainers and handlers. Before COVID-19, they could come every few months. They still supervise us from afar and provide consultation,” she said.
“We also work with another group. With them, we can run the wildlife detection dog unit on a bigger scale.”
Den Haas said the other dogs trained and cared for by JAAN are living up to Bailey’s examples and reputation. “They are just as good,” she said.
But as the first wildlife detection dog in Indonesia, Bailey will always have a special place in Den Haas’s heart.
“Bailey is our superstar. She’s just an amazing character. We’re really lucky to have her on the team. She’s the wildlife hero of Indonesia,” den Haas said.
Read this story in Bahasa Indonesia here.