The Canadian Landmine Foundation follows closely stories about landmine detection around the world. We recently published an article that described the increasing use of rodents in mine clearance efforts, and today we are pleased to share a story out that suggests elephants may be the next tool in landmine detection and clearance.
Recent research in South Africa has shown that elephants can identify explosives by smell. Dogs and rodents are commonly used to sniff out explosives, as has been shown by a group called APOPO which has had great success using trained rats to detect landmines in Angola and Mozambique. Similar research from the U.S. military shows elephants could also be useful, with the goal being to learn how an elephant smells and incorporate that knowledge into electronic sensors.
In response to concerns for animal safety Stephen Lee, head scientist at the U.S. Army Research Office, said:
“There’s never an intention that we’re going to use elephants on the battlefield.”
– Stephen Lee, U.S. Army Research Office
Animal safety is of the utmost importance to all involved in mine detection efforts. It’s important to remember, notes commenter Michael Moore, that animals have helped turn some minefields into “de facto wildlife preserves,” such as “Landmines in Africa.” Moore added that “landmines do not protect habitats, merely demonstrate the importance of guaranteeing safe and secure habitats for all species.”
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