Eight K-9 teams that completed the DNR Division of Law Enforcement’s nine-week K-9 Resource Protection program were recognized during a graduation ceremony held Friday on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse.

Graduating teams came from the states of Indiana, Virginia, Kansas, and Washington, as well as from the African country of Zambia.

The two participants from Africa are handlers for the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Both handlers have countrywide wildlife authority in Zambia. The new teams will focus on detecting bush meat, elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, firearms, and ammunition.

Indiana’s K-9 program started in 1997 with a pilot program of two teams. The program grew to a team of 13 K-9 units throughout the state. At least one K-9 unit serves in each of the 10 Indiana DNR Law Enforcement districts.

The Indiana K-9 program trains teams that serve in Indiana in man-tracking, wildlife detection and article searches. All canines are trained to locate white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, and ginseng. They may also be trained to locate other species, depending on where in Indiana the handler is stationed. Indiana teams excel in man-tracking and locating firearms.

K-9 teams provide the conservation officers another tool to help stop poaching. In the past 25 years, Indiana K-9 teams have been involved in thousands of such cases. K-9 teams have been used to find concealed game and guns, as well as to find shell casings in road hunting and spotlighting cases. K-9 teams are used to find lost hunters as well as poachers who have tried to hide from officers.

The DNR says that because of their unique abilities, K-9 units are often requested by other state and local law enforcement agencies for help in locating evidence, missing persons, or fleeing felons.