Cambodia’s “Swedish” Dog-tired Demining Mission Needs Fresh Recruits And Cash

Cambodia‘s star landmine-detection dogs are in financial trouble and urgently need fresh recruits and donations to keep the programme running smoothly, a senior official said Monday.
Khem Sophoan, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre director, said the 102 mine-detection dogs working in one of the most heavily mined countries in the world were aging, while the landmine problem remained serious.
“Dogs are just like people – when they get old, they have to retire,’ he said. ‘We love our dogs, and they never fail us.’
Experts estimate Cambodia still has between 4 million and 6 million unexploded mines, which kill and maim about 400 people each year.
The dogs, mainly imported shepherd crosses, are unmatched for their ability to detect explosives buried deep underground or located in rocky areas strewn with shrapnel, according to the centre.
“The canine demining programme costs around 1.2 million dollars a year”, Sophoan said. ‘Sweden helped us set the programme up, but now we need new dogs to train and financial assistance to maintain them.These are unique dogs. Of every 100 we assess, maybe only four or five make it”, Sophoan said. An untrained dog costs around 4,000 dollars, but a fully trained animal may go for up to 30,000 dollars.
Sweden set up the programme in 1996 using mainly German and Swedish dogs, and handed it over to Cambodia in late 2002.
Cambodia bred its first litter of puppies earlier this year from a pair of imported Bosnian demining Belgian Shepherds, but then lost more than half of the 10-pup litter to an intestinal disease which rarely proves fatal in more-developed countries.
Funding for veterinary supplies remains pressing, Sophoan said.

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