A sniffer dog called Suki has detected 69 biosecurity risks during her first month working at the Darwin International Airport, including pork products.
The Federal Government sent Suki to Darwin after concerns were raised about the global spread of African swine fever (ASF) and the regular flights between Darwin and Timor-Leste, where an outbreak of ASF was confirmed in late September.
Often referred to as Australia’s Gateway to Asia, there had previously been no biosecurity detector dog working at Darwin airport, despite regular flights coming in from Shenzen (China), Dili (Timor-Leste), Denpasar (Indonesia) and Singapore.
According to the Department of Agriculture, since Suki’s arrival the seizure rates at Darwin airport have increased by about 25 per cent, with the dog detecting biosecurity concerns on 46 occasions resulting in the seizure of 69 items, three of which were pork products.
“In addition to the frontline measures applied at the border, including Suki, the department has utilised a variety of media to raise awareness of ASF and the threat it poses to Australia,” the department said in a statement.
“The combination of these measures is having an impact.
Suki has not only sniffed out passengers trying to bring salami, ham and pork sausages into Darwin, but also a range of fruit, vegetables and other foreign plant material.
Extra biosecurity measures ‘needed all the time’
NT Farmers Association chief executive, Paul Burke, said the amount of foreign material detected by Suki in just one month was “concerning”.
“I note she found dates and found rice, which are two of our emerging industries [in the Northern Territory], which we really need to protect as they get established,” he said.
Since the introduction of Suki in Darwin, a second biosecurity sniffer dog, called JD, has been sent to the Cairns International Airport.
Australian Pork Limited chief executive, Margo Andrae, said all additional biosecurity measurers were welcome.
“It’s terrific to see Suki doing such a great job of strengthening Darwin’s biosecurity protections,” she said.
“The figures reinforce the need for increased vigilance, particularly with pork being one of the items confiscated.
“African swine fever is at our doorstep in Asia and everyone in Australia’s biosecurity system must play their part to keep this virulent disease away from Australia’s pig farms.
In the last couple of weeks, authorities have cancelled visas and deported at least two people who were caught trying to smuggle pork products into Australia.
The detections in Darwin by Suki resulted in 14 compliance actions, but no one was banned from entering the country.
When asked if the detected pork products had been tested for ASF, the department said officials at the airport followed the standard process to securely destroy all seized goods.
Reports of African swine fever in Indonesia
Indonesian media is reporting that ASF has killed about 4,000 pigs in North Sumatra.
Rumours of an outbreak in Indonesia have been circulating for weeks, but there is yet to be any official confirmation from the World Organisation for Animal Health.
According to newspaper Sumut Pos, pigs from 11 districts in North Sumatra have tested positive for ASF and dead pigs had been immediately buried.
In October, the Indonesian Government urged meat importers not to buy pork from neighbouring Timor-Leste, which confirmed an outbreak of ASF in September.
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