nation’s next generation of heroes, sniffing out TNT and exposing lethal buried
land mines, writes Chronicle Foreign Service.
all trained working dogs, the most difficult job is being a mine-detection dog.
These dogs need to be at the top every day,” said P.A. Bergstrom, a canine
expert with Norwegian People’s Aid who is developing the program for
rates of unexploded munitions, according to the International Campaign to Ban
Landmines. Hundreds of thousands of land mines, cluster bombs and artillery
shells are buried throughout the nation’s jungles and countryside – lethal
reminders of three decades of past wars.
when land mines and UXOs (unexploded ordnance) do not directly kill or hurt
people, they are a major obstacle to the development of the country because the
contaminated land cannot be used for agriculture or resettlement,” Deputy
Prime Minister Sok An has said. “People cannot travel or access basic
social infrastructures. Getting rid of land mines is a prerequisite to lifting
affected populations out of poverty.”
canine mine-detection teams have been used in
provinces. Currently, there are 53 dogs in the field.
the optimum canine is a fully trained German or Belgian shepherd from
such pricey foreign dogs has been an issue for impoverished
mine action center was formed in 1996, the organization attempted to turn local
dogs into mine detectors. They sent 10 prospects to
though the Cambodian canines learned how to detect mines, the effort eventually
failed. The dogs had difficulty trusting their handlers upon return to
life of a Cambodian dog is not like in Western culture,” Bergstrom said. “Here,
they’re used for guarding the house and almost everyone knows the best way to
get rid of one on the street is to bend down and pretend that you are picking
up a stone, because that’s normal treatment for local dogs.”
though the Cambodian dogs learned how to find mines, they regressed once they
came back to their old behaviors. They began listening to their handlers
the center has imported dogs. But that could change if the current program’s
instructors can mold the puppies into full-fledged mine detectors.
dog is not easy to train,” said Vim Lay Im, an instructor who handles
Tess, a retired mine detector who has worked in
instructor needs to be strong and patient and get involved with the dog most of
the time. … It is hard at first, but it will be better once you grab the
trainees were born in March, the offspring of proven mine detectors. The
parents, November and Frode, are Belgian shepherds from
training process began almost immediately after the puppies were born:
Bergstrom and trainer Huot Vannara played games with them, encouraging them to
investigate and retrieve with the hope that playful roughhousing and fetch
would help develop brave, curious adults with a “high-sniff
however, five of the 10 dogs died from canine coronavirus, which affects the
intestinal tract. Bergstrom said the deaths underscore the difficulties in
raising dogs in
The disease is rarely fatal in Western countries, where vaccines and expert
veterinary care are available.
setback, however, won’t deter
from developing its dog mine-detector program, Bergstrom vows.
even a couple of puppies make it into the field, the fledgling program will be
a huge success,” he said.
unexploded ordnance from past wars involving the Cambodian military, the former
Khmer Rouge regime,
It is one of the most contaminated countries in the world, affecting nearly
half of the nation’s rural villages.
1970 and 1975, an estimated 539,129 tons of bombs were dropped on
estimates show that the
unexploded general purpose bombs and 3.75 million unexploded bomblets.
there have been more than 63,000 casualties from land mine and unexploded
ordnance. One in every 250 Cambodians is disabled, and the proportion of
amputees – 1 in every 384 people – is the highest in the world.
its program to eradicate the mines. A 2002 survey identified 1,724 square miles
of known or suspect areas. By 2006, 23 square miles had been cleared of 236,929
mines and other devices.
result, deaths and injuries are decreasing. Land mines and ordnance killed or
maimed 1,154 people in 1999 compared with 315 last year.
Cambodian government hopes to clear all land mines by 2012.
learning to be land mine detectors in
walks with one of the dogs learning to detect m…