Antipoaching news

LWA EU Anti-poison Dog Units in action with Operation “Sabaudus”

13 October 2022
Aree Protette Alpi Marittime

Joint operation of the Anti-poison Dog Units of the Carabinieri Forestali on truffle, hunting and grazing areas between Piedmont and Liguria

Between 4th and 6th October 2022, an extensive control campaign was carried out in the provinces of Cuneo and Asti, Piedmont, and in the neighbouring territories of Savona, Liguria, by 13 Anti-poison Dog Units from various Italian regions, including those recently set up as part of the LIFE WolfAlps EU project, together with the local Carabinieri Forestali.

In order to provide a preventive response to the problem of the release of poisoned baits, the Command of the Forest, Environmental and Agri-food Units of the Carabinieri ordered this campaign as a strong deterrent to the odious practice in the areas most at risk, with a total of 41 inspections carried out and about 150 km of routes covered by search dogs.

In particular, in the Cuneo area, the Demonte area in the Stura Valley, the Upper Tanaro Valley (municipalities of Briga Alta and Ormea), the municipality of Oncino in the Po Valley, as well as some municipalities in the Alba and Cherasco areas were covered. In the Tanaro valley, the activity was carried out jointly with dog units and park rangers from institutional partners (Aree protette Alpi Marittime, Aree protette Alpi Cozie, Città metropolitana di Torino). In the province of Asti, areas in the municipalities of Calosso, Celle Enomondo, Cerreto, Montafia and Nizza Monferrato were controlled; in the province of Savona, some areas at risk in the municipalities of Piana Crixia and Cosseria in Val Bormida.

The targets were identified on the basis of the problems underlying the phenomenon of the release of poisoned baits. These are in fact used by malicious individuals who wish to ‘free’ hunting areas from predators (wolves in primis), or pastures to avoid predation. A third case is that of truffle hunters for internal rivalries. In fact, it is not only wild predators in the wild (wolves, foxes for example, but also eagles) that suffer the consequences of such practices, but also domestic dogs such as truffle hounds or shepherds’ dogs, or even unsuspecting dogs simply out for a walk, which almost always die in excruciating pain. The release of poisoned baits in the territory constitutes a serious criminal offence on a par with other forms of poaching, and in Italy it can be considered a crime under Article 544 bis of the Criminal Code if it results in the death of the animal, with the penalty of imprisonment from four months to two years.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Health’s Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute report, for the last available two-year period (2019-20), as many as 270 positive poison reports in Piedmont alone.

In the face of this detestable phenomenon, the Carabinieri deploy the highly specialised anti-poison dog teams capable of searching for baits and poisons and thus reclaiming areas at risk in the service of local authorities and in support of the ensuing investigative activities.

A total of 17 Carabinieri Anti-poison Dog Units are currently operating in 13 Italian regions with a total of 22 dogs (Belgian Malinois and Labrador shepherds), which, having obtained their specialisation after a six-month specialised training period, support the activities of the Carabinieri Forest Rangers and secure all areas at risk.

Most of the dog units were established within the framework of EU LIFE projects (WolfAlps, WolfAlps EU, Pluto and Medwolf). It is therefore important to emphasise the role of international projects in the training of these highly specialised units, which, thanks to the coordination of the Corps, are able to continue their work even after the projects have ended.

Thanks to LIFE WolfAlps EU, since the beginning of the project, 3 new units have been trained and are directly managed by the Carabinieri Forestry, Environmental and Agri-food Units Command in Liguria, Lombardy and Veneto. In addition, the dog units of the LIFE WolfAlps EU project, together with the other units of the Carabinieri, collaborate with foreign partners by providing technical support thanks to the experience gained through years of work in the field.

Click here for more information on the Anti-poison Dog Units on the LIFE WolfAlps EU project.