Heroes on 4 Paws
More than 40 years after the Vietnam war, Cambodia is still being haunted by a dismal legacy. According to estimates, the war has left behind 3 to 5 million landmines. Bayer is committed to a world free of landmines and supports the health of specially trained dogs, like our god fur-child, named Bayer. These dogs make an invaluable contribution by detecting the mines, helping save numerous lives.
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 46-year-old Norwegian has been working 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 before their first assignment,” explains Soyland. “We only use the best dogs from this training program to detect mines.”
These dogs make an invaluable contribution by detecting mines and other explosives, helping save numerous lives. “I love every single dog here and it is very meaningful for me to be able to support them in their service.”
For Charlotte and her dogs, it’s more than a human-animal bond, it´s a lifelong commitment to help. Last year, her star dog, Hamilton, retired and returned to Norway. “In more than nine years, Hamilton has found hundreds of explosives in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jordan, Senegal, Tajikistan, Cambodia and Colombia. He has saved so many lives.” Today, 11-year old Hamilton enjoys his well-deserved retirement and lives with Charlotte near Oslo.
Hamilton’s successor is now continuing the good work. The Belgian shepherd is one of 30 dogs living in the NPA camp in Siem Reap, Cambodia. “It turns out that he has true talent for this work. He has the drive and the capacity to become a mine detection dog, and at the same time, he is adorable and so nice to be around. I just love him.” Charlotte has given him the nickname, Bayer. "Because Bayer has accompanied him from puppyhood, every step of the way to become a successful mine detection dog.”
The dogs save human lives, but as far as they themselves are concerned, the veterinary supply situation is anything but good. Health care and prevention are extremely important for the dogs. Every day, they are exposed to very harsh conditions outside.
Parasites such as fleas and ticks are waiting for suitable victims. The bites of these tiny insects are not just annoying – they can also transmit serious pathogens. That’s why parasites should be repelled before they bite. “Our dogs need to be given optimum protection against parasites in an open environment.”
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. “As an experienced veterinarian, I know that Bayer’s collar offers reliable and lasting protection against fleas and ticks.”
Bayer 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.
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”.
The dogs can search 800 square meters of land a day – four times as much as a person with a metal detector. A task that only well-trained and healthy dogs can master. “This method is safe and effective,” says Soyland. “None of our animals has ever been injured or killed 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. 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.
Facts & Figures
Worldwide, there are around 110 million landmines in the ground, with another 100 million in storage.
According to the UN, landmines are found in the ground in more than 70 countries
Each year, landmines kill some 20,000 people.
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.