Training a Conservation Canine in India

by Shai Singh 

photo0197Eli, a female Labrador retriever, was procured by the TSA India team recently and is currently being trained as a conservation dog. Eventually, she will join field conservation crews to help find forest turtles, turtle nests and illegal turtle products in Tarai, near the Indo-Nepal border.

Tarai (located near the Foothills of the Himalayas) is an ecologically diverse and high turtle priority area, where fifteen endangered species of turtles are found and trade is rampant. Due to thick vegetation in local forests and rough terrain, it’s difficult to survey turtles and nests in the region so the first time a dog is being incorporated on trial basis. She will also be used to find turtle parts being smuggled illegally.

The idea to incorporate canine assistance in India has been derived from the semi-nomadic tribe Nutt, who use dogs to hunt different wildlife (including turtles) in the area.

Examples of what she’ll be trained to find:


Yellow-headed Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)

Tricarinate Hill Turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata)


Indian Eyed Turtle (Morenia petersii)

Softshell turtles (Genus Nilssonia)

Calipee of softshell turtles

Genus Chitra, Genus Nilssonia, Genus Lissemys

These are extensively hunted species in northern India, mostly for their outer cartilaginous rim or ‚Äúcalipee.‚Äù  Dried calipee is unsustainably exported for traditional Chinese medicine and as a luxury food (the base for a gelatinous soup).

Welcome to the team, Eli!