Biosecurity Beagle retires

Incoming from Sword Devlin, Purveyor of Crossword Puzzles to Royalty, the Rich, the Famous and even to Commoners Like You: news of the retirement of Andy, Adelaide Airport’s Biosecurity Beagle, and indeed the last Biosecurity Beagle on the Australian mainland.

Andy the beagle, who single-nosedly detected about 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material over a career which took him across Australia, will return to Sydney to live with his original handler.

It’s no secret that beagles are good at sniffing things out. It’s obviously quite difficult to quantify just how much more powerful their sense of smell is than ours, but I’ve seen a lot of estimates of around 10,000 times. Given this astonishing statistic, I’m astounded that they’re not instantly killed by their own Beaglegas, but maybe there’s some sort of innate immunity thing going on there.

But I digress. Often.

The fact is that Andy has been sniffing things out across Australia for over six years and is now ready (between naps) to sniff the pavements and parks of Sydney. And who knows what he will find there, given his record over the last few years:

2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material confiscated.
718kg of undeclared fruit and fresh vegetables.
432kg of meat including dried organs.
8.9kg of viable seeds and live plants.

In the last few months he’s been involved in the South Australia Fruit Fly project, preventing fruit flies from annoying South Australians. And we all know what irritating little bastards they can be (the fruit flies, not the South Australians) (although…).

Useful but little known beagle feature – pull that
little tag on its head and the whole thing deflates for easy storage. 

Andy will be replaced – as many of Australia’s Biosecurity Beagles have been – with a Labrador, because as his handler tells us:

“There is a saying with sniffer dogs that labradors will work to please but beagles will just please themselves.”

Well, yeah. I mean, it’s a beagle. But you weren’t moaning when he found that half ton of illicit beef, now were you?

Because while they may be lazy, difficult to train, easily distracted, difficult to handle, distressingly flappy eared, obstinate, surprisingly unintelligent, constantly hungry, selectively deaf to many commands and requests, and just generally massively frustrating to own or work with on virtually every single level, beagles do have a really good sense of smell.
Far better than your average labrador.

Thus, I predict a massive upsurge in dried organ trafficking and fruit fly numbers coming to South Australia real soon now.

It’s worth noting that Cape Town International Airport does still employ a Biosecurity Beagle – you can see him patrolling the baggage carousels in the International Arrivals hall – and he’s probably the reason why nothing illegal ever happens in South Africa. Just saying.

Thanks for all your hard work protecting the South Australians from viable seeds and fresh vegetables, Andy.
Enjoy your well-earned retirement.

And while we’re talking about fishing…

(Because we were talking about fishing here.)

How’s this for a headline?

“Seal Harvest Would Create Jobs”

Yep, that’s the plan of ANC MP Meriam Phaliso:

The government should consider allowing the harvesting of Cape fur seals as a means of job creation to compensate for several fisheries that have collapsed through overfishing, says ANC MP Meriam Phaliso.

During a briefing to the National Assembly’s portfolio committee by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, about renewed rights allocations in eight fisheries, Phaliso said the only point of concern was to find a humane way of killing the seals.

Cue inevitable outcry from environmentalists, greenies and the armchairs of slacktivists everywhere. But, in actual fact, it’s not a new idea:

In 1990… a five-year concession allowing a Taiwanese businessman to kill seal pups was cancelled at the last moment by then environment minister Gert Kotze following a huge outcry.
The concession would have allowed up to 100 000 pups and a number of bulls to be killed and processed for pet food, leather and aphrodisiacs in a Port Nolloth factory that had already been built.

Wow. You can get a lot out of a seal, hey? Almost as good as a whale or a rhino. It all sounds like a splendid plan. If only they weren’t so lovely and fluffy and… awww… just look at his whiskers!

Hang on… I got sidetracked by his cuteness. Damn it.
Right, here’s Phaliso’s reasoning for the sickening bloody massacre of the sweet fluffy seal pups with their puppy dog eyes:

Seals are “the biggest poachers of some of the fish and nobody is arresting them… seals are a job-creating mechanism that can put food on the tables in some areas”.

Well, nobody is really arresting human poachers either, are they? But to be honest, Meriam, though your cull idea is a bit on the harsh side when compared with simply “arresting” the seals, it might be a more pleasurable end than being locked up in Pollsmoor overnight.

Meanwhile, just up the road in Elgin (a thankfully seal free inland town), fruit flies were ruining the local apple crop. This was costing food, jobs and livelihoods. In fact, many people in those fruit growing areas called the fruit flies “the biggest poachers of some of the apples”, yet remarked that “nobody is arresting them”.
At first, I put this down to the fact that it’s really difficult to get handcuffs small enough, but then I realised that there was no need to arrest the fruit flies, because we humans are already massacring them with insecticides and genetic modification.

Innocent lives were lost. And yet where was the outcry? Where?

Could it possibly be that because fruit flies don’t bask on rocks around False Bay looking lovable, and instead merely go about eating their natural diet and destroying human livelihoods – i.e. just like the seals apart from the rock bit?

Yeah. It’s damn hard to love a fruit fly, isn’t it? And you need loads to make any decent volume of pet food.

For the record, and belatedly because you’re already on your green high horse, I’m not necessarily suggesting that the seal harvest idea is a good idea. It came from a member of parliament and those two things rarely go together. That said, it would provide jobs, money, and increase local fish stocks. Thus, I am suggesting that a bit more thought than just, “Seals?! OMG! No!” be put into your response to Ms Phaliso’s scheme.

I’m also willing to bet that the rate of objection will be far higher among those who can easily put a meal on the family table for their kids each evening. That’s because there are plenty of people out there who can’t afford to do that and would surely jump at the chance to put a seal on the family table for their kids each evening.