China police train six squirrels to detect drugs, seek to replace sniffer dogs

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Chinese police have trained six sniffer squirrels to bust drug rings in a move to find cheaper alternatives for sniffer dogs.

The Times reported on Thursday that the police in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing trained the first batch of “more agile” squirrels that can sniff out drugs.

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“Squirrels have a quite acute sense of smell, but we didn’t have sniffer squirrels in the past because we didn’t have mature techniques to train rodents,” Yin Jin, a trainer of the local squad of police dogs, was quoted as telling state-run Shangyou News by The Times.

The system used to train sniffer dogs has reportedly worked on the squirrels with “very good effects,” according to Jin.

Since squirrels are smaller and more flexible than dogs, they are able to search “complex environments” full of packages and tight corners, and they can reach spots that are high up, the report said.

Once it finds the narcotics, the trained squirrel will supposedly notify its trainer by scratching the object.

It is not the first time that an animal other than a dog was trained to sniff out illicit material. Police in the Netherlands in 2013 reportedly trained rats to sniff out drugs and gunpowder with a success rate of 95 per cent.

The latest effort comes as China strengthens its zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Those convicted of drug crimes often face severe punishments, including death.

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