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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
The purrfect crime fighter
Police unload stolen sturgeon
Sturgeon have been poached to the brink of extinction
A new detective is on the beat in central Russia - Rusik the cat - the latest weapon in the battle against sturgeon smugglers.

Rusik has been recruited by police at a checkpoint in the Stavropol region, bordering the Caspian Sea, to hunt out illegal cargoes of the endangered fish.

In fact his ability to sniff out poached fish hidden in trucks and other vehicles is so good that he has replaced the local sniffer dog.

Areas bordering the Caspian Sea are plagued by poachers keen to cash in on stolen sturgeon, whose roe is the delicacy caviar, which sell for huge sums in Moscow and other cities.

An estimated 95% of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian Sea and this lucrative market has meant that the sturgeon has been hunted to the brink of extinction.

Adopted stray

The feline crime fighter walked into a police checkpoint a year ago as a stray kitten.

The staff quickly adopted it, feeding it on scraps of fish confiscated from smugglers.

Now Rusik has cut out the middle man, going direct to the source as he searches vehicles at the checkpoint for smuggled fish.

Rusik earns his regular rations as a member of the team, working alongside his less keen-scented human colleagues.

The little cat has proven a formidable weapon - indeed staff say no matter how ingenious the smugglers are in their attempts to hide the fish, Rusik is always able to point his nose in the right direction and find it.

The sturgeon poachers' secret world
02 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Farmed sturgeon 'only hope for caviar'
02 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Beluga caviar faces US ban
14 Aug 02  |  Americas


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