By Radio Prague
Cama, a specially trained female Belgian shepherd dog, is the first Czech dog that will help fight ivory smugglers in the Republic of the Congo, the project's spokesman Pavel Kaspar told CTK yesterday.
Cama, 2, and her coach Hana Boehme will leave for Congolese capital Brazzaville, over 6000km southwards of Prague, on February 15.
Cama "will help the customs officers in the capital city detect ivory, save pangolins, the unique scaly mammals, and also gorillas, and detect the meat of the local wild species, known as bushmeat, which has been subject to extensive trafficking and has also been smuggled to Europe," Kaspar said.
The dog can distinguish up to 19 scents. It has undergone many months of hard training, in which the Liberec Zoo cooperated, mainly by providing samples of the scents of elephant tusks and the fur and scales of exotic animals.
"We support the use of dogs in biodiversity protection. Poachers annually kill up to 35,000 elephants. It is very important [for the zoo\ to help dog handlers...prepare for detecting smuggled ivory," the zoo's spokesman David Nejedlo said.
Boehme said the Belgium shepherd dog is the best suitable for this purpose, as it is especially agile, fiery, healthy and able to resist the extreme African conditions.
"Above all, Cama likes detection, unlike defence. At the [Brazzaville\ airport, she is expected to search up to 120 pieces of luggage from every plane," Boehme said.
Cama is being sent to Congo within a project organised by Save-Elephants, a Czech NGO linked to Czech nature protector Arthur F. Sniegon.
According to Sniegon, sniffer dogs detecting ivory are an important means to save elephants.
"However, dogs have not been used in most African countries so far," said Kaspar, adding that the only exception are two dogs from Israel. Operating in Congo since March 2014, they have already found dozens of smuggled dead animals.
Before Cama's departure, customs officers at the airport will let her "inspect" the luggage in the airport's closed premises so that she can use her skills.
Josef Dusanek, who heads the customs office's dog training centre in Hermanice, near Liberec, said they are considering organising a training course for detection dogs and their handlers from Brazzaville, either in the Hermanice centre or in Congo, under the Czech experts' leadership.