The land in Cambodia is littered with ruins, and after decades of armed conflict, there are still between three and five million explosive left in the ground even today. Detecting these mines is the task of intelligent sniffer dogs, and Bayer is helping them carry out their vital work.
There were moments when Charlotte Soyland shut herself away in her hotel room and simply cried. “The situation in Cambodia shocked me,” she remembers. “I arrived there and saw what war had done to the country.” She stood in front of minefields that stretched as far as the horizon. She saw children with amputated legs, men in wheelchairs and people in poverty. “I felt so sorry about the children in particular,” she says. “They are victims of a conflict that has nothing to do with them.”
Soyland is a veterinarian. For the past three years, the 45-year-old Norwegian has been working as consultant for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), an aid organization which clears minefields in numerous countries of the world. Specially trained sniffer dogs are used to do this. They have a highly sensitive sense of smell and can even detect mines that are up to six meters below ground. “All the animals are special breeds and undergo a two-year training program in Bosnia before their first assignment,” explains Soyland. “We only use the best dogs from this training program to detect mines.”
The dogs can search 800 square meters of land a day – four times as much as a person with a metal detector. “This method is safe and effective,” says Soyland. “None of our animals has ever been injured on an assignment, even though they have already cleared over 78 million square meters of land.” Even so, the task is still far from finished.
The dogs save human lives, but as far as they themselves are concerned, the veterinary supply situation is anything but good. “There is hardly any medicine for the animals, the equipment is either damaged or completely absent and there are simply no well-trained specialist staff. When I was first on the ground, I had no idea where to start,” says Soyland.
Soyland dealt with the problem herself. She trained veterinarians to take care of the NPA dogs, and set up a rolling animal hospital in a container. Then she contacted Bayer. “Our dogs need to be given optimum protection against parasites in an open environment,” she explains. “As an experienced veterinarian, I know that Bayer’s collar offers reliable and lasting protection against fleas and ticks.”
Bayer products against ectoparasites repel such pests through an immediate knock-down effect on contact with treated animals' fur.
The company immediately donated sufficient collars for the NPA dogs. “This enabled us to help our animals,” says Soyland. “After all, stings and bites from parasites don’t just weaken them, they can also transmit potentially fatal diseases.” Bayer researchers have developed a collar that provides broad protection from fleas and ticks. “This collar simultaneously repels ticks and kills fleas and ticks on contact, so that the risk of disease transmission is reduced,” explains Dr. Markus Edingloh, head of Global Veterinary Scientific Affairs at Bayer Animal Health.
What are Canine Vector-Borne Diseases (CVBD)?
Parasites such as mosquitoes, sandflies, fleas and ticks are all examples of what are termed ectoparasites. They land on a host’s skin and bite or pierce it to feed, and during this process they can transmit dangerous diseases. In this case, they become a vector – a disease carrier. Diseases transmitted to dogs by such vectors are termed canine vector-borne diseases (CVBDs).
CVBDs are currently spreading throughout the world and represent a growing challenge for veterinarians and animal owners. In many cases, the symptoms of the diseases are non-specific. Bayer Animal Health recommends repellent products that prevent the animal from flea and tick bites.
Only a few active ingredients are capable of repelling ticks effectively. These actives belong to the class of pyrethroids. “Bayer’s flea and tick collar harness this effect by combing a pyrethroid with imidacloprid and give animals flea and tick protection for up to 8 months ,” explains Edingloh. “The collar continuously emits a small quantity of the active ingredients.” Once the level of active ingredients on the animal’s skin falls, the collar releases fresh active ingredient to replenish it again.
For Soyland, the collars are an enormous help. “The collars protect our animals from parasites and help to keep our dogs healthy. It enables them to work longer in the minefields,” she says, “and this means that we can even save more human lives”. It will take another eight years until the children of Cambodia can finally play safely wherever they are. The aim is to eliminate all of the landmines in the ground by 2025.