Arni, who sniffs out smuggled tusks and the hide of big cats

In The Slow App’s Foresters partner channel, watch the story of Arni and his handler Annu Kumar Shukla. See how tracking dogs help their handlers and the forest department sniff out contraband, smuggled banned tusks and the hide of big cats.

Subha J Rao
| Updated: June 10th, 2021

Arni, the tracker dog, helps forest personnel to spot certain distinct smells. All photos: Yash Sachdev

Every time you read of the forest department catching a gang of smugglers or recovering tusks or the hide of big cats that have been mercilessly slaughtered, invariably, there will be a tracker dog in the picture too.

What are tracker dogs? Tracker dogs are those who are trained from a young age to spot certain distinct smells. They are usually attached to the police force, the bomb squad and the forest department to help personnel zero in on culprits or contraband based on scent.

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In this episode of the Foresters channel on The Slow App, which is a brainchild of Neelesh Misra, say hello to Arni, who works with the Forest Department. Arni operates in Katarnia Ghat wild life sanctuary, in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh.

Arni sitting close to his handler Annu Kumar Shukla.

Arni has many attributes that endear him to the force, and when his handler Annu Kumar Shukla speaks of him, it is with deep fondness. “We met as strangers, and I was not really used to dogs. My trainer told me that for the first few weeks, I should sleep in Arni’s kennel. And, that’s what I did. I took my mattress and stayed with him. And slowly, a bond was forged,” Shukla said.

The images accompanying the nearly four-minute film are proof of the bond the two share. Arni’s either sitting close to Shukla or he has an arm around him. “We are incomplete without each other now. Arni’s closer than family. In fact, when I go on leave, and come back and whistle, Arni will come bounding leaving his meal midway,” said Shukla.

Tracker dogs are usually attached to the police force, the bomb squad and the forest department.

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What does a tracking dog do? “We show them objects and they absorb that scent and go sniffing around for the source. If Arni smells something, I am alerted with a bark,” said Shukla. Sometimes, people refuse to open the trunk of their car or a bag to show us what is inside, he said. “I tell them that if they don’t open it, Arni will anyway sniff it out. The dog’s work is fifty or eighty percent. After that, we take over,” Shukla added.

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