China authorities using squirrels to find illicit drugs

BEIJING, 10 Feb 2023:

A Chinese city has trained a group of squirrels to detect drugs in spaces difficult to access, such as storage sheds or very high places, state media reported yesterday.

The six anti-narcotics squirrels, of the Eurasian red variety, would begin working in the city of Chongqing, after their new “police” capacity has been endorsed by several scientific institutions, official newspaper Global Times said.

“Squirrels have a very good sense of smell,” said Yin Jin, one of the handlers with the dog brigade of the Hechuan Public Security Bureau in Hechuan.

The expert said the training method they have developed is also useful for other animal species, adding that results obtained so far are positive and the unit is capable of quickly identifying drugs.

Unlike dogs, Yin said the squirrels’ small size and agility allow them to get into difficult areas as well as places at high altitude.

They have been trained to scratch on the surface as a way of indicating to their handlers that they have smelled the presence of drugs, Yin said.

China’s Public Security Ministry said a few months ago that the country is the nation with the “strictest drug control system in the world” and with the largest number of prohibited substances.

Large-scale drug trafficking is a crime punishable by death in China.