Dog trainers from Norway were in Kompong Chhnang yesterday to begin testing 17 dogs to assist the Cambodian Mines Action Center’s explosive clearing program.
As part of a new $72,000 aid package, Norwegian People’s Aid has provided a technical training team to support a five-month dog training program with CMAC.
“The Cambodian mine detection dog program is the second biggest in the world after Kabul in Afghanistan,” said Pa Bergstrom, trainer and senior technical advisor for mine detection dogs with the Norwegian agency. “We hope to be training 10 to 15 new dogs per year for 2012 to 2014.”
CMAC began its dog detection program in 1997 with assistance from the Swedish government and has since cleared 42 million square meters of land mine areas and 5 million square meters of unexploded ordnance areas.
“Our missions have been very successful,” said Hong Rith, CMAC detection dog officer. “And our dogs have never been killed or injured during field operations.”
Mr Rith said CMAC currently has 46 trained detection dogs, with some working on mine detection and others on UXO detection.
Mr Bergstrom said most demining dogs in Cambodia come from a global breeding center in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Dogs bought abroad cost between $5,000 and $26,000.
“Sometimes, the puppies will be fully trained before arriving in Cambodia, but often the training takes place here,” Mr Bergstrom said. “It is very difficult for the Cambodians to learn new training techniques, so we are here to support them.”
Nem Sowathey, public affairs officer at CMAC, said dogs were brought into Cambodia because locally bred dogs do not have the same characteristics as their overseas-bred counterparts.
“We are hoping that we will be able to have all Cambodian dogs to do the detection work one day,” Ms Sowathey said. “We have a breeding program at our training center in Kompong Chhnang, but it is in the very early stages.”
She said the CMAC dog detection program has had on and off support since 1997, but the alliance with NPA promises ongoing cooperation until 2014.