News Release

Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351, sondra.katzen@czs.org

September 22, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chicago Zoological Society and US Fish and Wildlife Service Team Up to Help Save Rhinos

Note: Images may be downloaded at below:

USFWS-1.jpg: Ryan Colburn, supervisory wildlife inspector canine coordinator for US Fish and Wildlife Service, Lancer, and Amanda Dickson, wildlife inspector canine handler for US Fish and Wildlife Service. The team works to find items made of rhino horns that may be illegally brought into or shipped out of the country.

USFWS-2.jpg: Amanda Dickson, wildlife inspector canine handler for US Fish and Wildlife Service, and her partner, Lancer, during a training session to locate a package containing a rhino horn that was donated by the Chicago Zoological Society.
 
USFWS-3.jpg: Ryan Colburn, supervisory wildlife inspector canine coordinator for US Fish and Wildlife Service holds a rhino horn for Lancer to get familiar with its scent. The horn, which was donated by the Chicago Zoological Society, is used to train Lancer in sniffing out packages containing items made from rhino horns that may be illegally imported and exported. Also pictured is Lancer’s partner, Amanda Dickson, wildlife inspector canine handler.

6406.jpg: Joan Daniels (left), associate curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, hands over a rhino horn to Amanda Dickson, wildlife inspector canine handler for US Fish and Wildlife Service. The horn will be used to train Dickson’s canine partner in sniffing out items made of rhino horns that may be illegally imported or exported.
 

Chicago Zoological Society and US Fish and Wildlife Service Team Up to Help Save Rhinos

Brookfield, Ill.—Today, on World Rhino Day—September 22, the Chicago Zoological Society is helping to make a difference in putting an end to the smuggling of items made with rhino horns, which unlawfully enter and leave the United States. Recently, the Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, teamed up with US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement by donating a small portion of a rhino horn that is being used to train one of their dogs. With it, they learn to sniff out items made from rhino horns.

“The Chicago Zoological Society is dedicated to the conservation of animals across the globe, including black rhinos,” said Amy Roberts, curator of mammals for the Society. “Partnering with USFWS on this project is helping us fulfill our mission as well as informing our guests about the plight of these magnificent creatures in the wild and how the import and export of their horns is affecting the wild population.

In addition to Chicago, these units—consisting of one dog and one handler—also operate in Los Angeles, Anchorage, Miami, Houston, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Currently, the dogs in the program are trained to detect the scent of products from five types of animals: elephants (specifically ivory), pythons, seahorses, sea turtles, and rhinos.

Sadly, there is a need for the coverage. On an average day at O’Hare International Airport, the team of Amanda Dickson, wildlife inspector canine handler, and her partner, Lancer, find items. Most of the pieces are legal and are cleared. However, every week or two, an illegal item, which can be anything from a drink cup or a knife handle to a whole horn are found. These are the consequences of poaching that kills rhinos and other animals.

“It has been great to collaborate with the Chicago Zoological Society in obtaining the rhino horn,” said Dickson. “This will allow us to be able to have enough rhino horn for training purposes, and hopefully will make a difference in the illegal trade of this and other items.”

Dickson says that, for the dogs, which are typically Labradors and often obtained from shelters and pounds from around the country, the program is more like a “game.” They search luggage, packages, and cargo behind the scenes, which keeps them mentally stimulated and physically alert. Training is done using positive reinforcement—when Lancer performs a behavior correctly, he is rewarded with a treat.

The horn donated to USFWS was trimmed from one of Brookfield Zoo’s rhinos. It is made of keratin (the same material as human fingernails), and grows constantly. If left sharp and untrimmed, the horn can obstruct the vision of a rhino or even injure another animal, especially during introductions between two animals. The procedure, which does not hurt the animal, is occasionally done with the rhino’s cooperation. In the wild, conservationists trim rhino horns so that poachers won’t hunt the animals for those particular body parts.

Items confiscated by USFWS are sometimes sent to schools, museums, or nature centers so they can be used for educational purposes. Other times, they are sent to the organization’s repository or destroyed.

The black rhino is listed as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The main reason the species is being decimated throughout its range in Africa is for their horns, which are used for medicinal purposes and to make dagger handles and other items. According to the International Rhino Foundation, “The black rhino has suffered the most drastic decline in total number of all rhino species. Between 1970 and 1992, the population of this species decreased by 96 percent. In 1970, it was estimated that there were approximately 65,000 black rhinos in Africa, but, by 1993, there were only 2,300 surviving in the wild. The black rhino population is recovering and increasing very slowly, but the poaching threat remains great.” The current wild population is estimated to be just over 5,000 individuals.

 

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About the Chicago Zoological Society

The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071
E-mail: Sondra.Katzen@CZS.org

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