Detector dog unit expanding its paw print across the country!

On a subject close to my heart. The National Detector Dog Unit of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is getting a boost with more than 70 new dogs and handlers being trained to make up a number of new dog units around the country. Apart from filling a couple of current vacancies, the new recruits will form part of Detector Dog Units in Port Elizabeth, Zeerust, Mahamba, Vioolsdrift, Nakop, Maseru Bridge and an expanded Mpumalanga unit. All the additional units are expected to become operational in the first quarter of 2013.

“By next year, most of the major land, sea and air ports should have their own detector dog units (DDU),” said the senior manager of the DDU, Hugo Taljaard. “The ultimate aim is to have dog units at every port, with a total of 500 new handlers and dogs needed. However, this is a long-term (four-year) project, aimed at enhancing our non-intrusive capabilities at ports of entry to prevent cross-border smuggling.”

The SARS Detector Dog Unit has also been asked recently to assist with training in Namibia and Angola, following the assistance we gave the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) to establish a Detector Dog capability. The DDU continues to see major successes countrywide, with a recent copper bust in the news last weekend.

Detector dog Umaga, an 18-month old German Shepherd, sniffed out 84kg of copper at the Beit Bridge border post during his first operation. Umaga recently completed his training as a copper sniffer dog. The copper was concealed in luggage in a trailer entering South Africa. Umaga is the second sniffer dog to be trained to sniff out copper. Milo, a five-year-old Labrador, has also already nosed out his first contraband copper. There has been an increase in the smuggling of copper wire across the border into South Africa, since copper has a much higher value here than in the other member states of the Southern African Development Community. The increase has meant that Customs has had to beef up its ability to detect contraband copper. The wire is usually concealed in compartments under trucks.

The Detector Dog Unit was the first in the world to train “dual application dogs”, Hugo explained. So instead of being trained or “imprinted” to detect only one scent, they are able to detect a combination of scents, e.g. narcotics and currency, tobacco and endangered species. Both Milo and Umaga are dual dogs and they can detect narcotics/tobacco and copper wire. The explosives detector dogs are the only dogs not dual trained due to the safety risk.

The dogs are an integral part of our Customs workforce and are seen as officers in their own right. They are therefore looked after with the utmost care and attention and are even provided with special reflector jackets, cooler jackets for the heat and dog shoes made to protect their feet from hot surfaces. Source: SARS Communications Division

Using Sniffer Bees for cargo screening

Port Technology International (PTI) reported last month, a ground-breaking technological development from UK-based Inscentinel could change the future of security at ports. In a move that brings together nature and technology, bulk cargo screening could soon be carried out by an unlikely source – sniffer bees.

Freight forwarding companies screen 100 percent of all of their parcels. The first line of screening relies on X-rays followed by REST dogs for special items which cannot be screened. REST, stands for Remote Explosives Scent Tracing.

This works by sampling the air from the cargo through a specially designed filter. This filter, which can trap explosives molecules, is then presented to the most accurate explosives detector ever – dogs. This method has proven very effective to exploit the accuracy of dogs while maximizing the throughput volume of screening, which a free-running dog cannot otherwise do.

According to the information found on the website of Diagnose, a subsidiary of ICTS: ‘The technique has screened over 100,000 trucks and pallets and over 1.5 million metric tons of air cargo since live operations began in the UK and France. The RASCargO™ technique was specially developed to serve the mass screening cargo market that requires a solution for screening high volumes of dense cargo, with actually, no cargo size limitation, a solution that combines high detection rate with cost effectiveness.’ Read the full report as published in PTI here!

Inscentinel’s latest video, below, shows how the company has devised an ingenious way of using the insect in the cargo screening process.