An anti-drug police squad in southwestern China said it has “successfully trained” squirrels to sniff out narcotics.
Yin Jin, a police dog handler in Chongqing, was assigned six Eurasian red squirrels as part of China’s initiative to test animals other than dogs in anti-narcotics units.
According to Jin, the squirrels have done an “excellent job” in the drug detection exercises so far. He said squirrels are the animal kingdom’s best candidate for uncovering drugs due to their keen sense of smell and their ability to maneuver in small areas that are otherwise inaccessible to dogs.
To alert their handler, the squirrels are taught to start scratching when they have detected an illegal substance.
In a video posted by the Chinese Communist Party media outlet People’s Daily, squirrels can be seen during their training exercises.
The squirrels appear to be sniffing different surfaces and darting between obstacles.
The video went viral on China’s microblogging site Weibo, with some users criticizing the idea as absurd. Other users jokingly expressed jealousy toward the squirrels for their jobs as civil servants.
While training the squirrels was the culmination of years of research, Jin noted that they are not ready to be deployed to drug busts as of yet.
“It’s probably going to take some time,” Jin told The Washington Post.
“Research like this requires innovativeness as well as the patience for a flower to bloom,” he also told Hechuan Daily.
The police plan to conduct more drills before allowing the squirrels to go on active duty.
In 2022, there were reportedly more than 139 billion parcels collected and delivered in China, and authorities said there are recent cases where drugs were sent via post and masqueraded as legal products to avoid detection.