Longtime victims of landmine contamination in Angola and other southern African countries, elephants are now being considered for a demining role by a research team at the South African University of Witwatersrand.

Elephants have over 2000 genes associated with olfactory reception compared to the 811 possessed by dogs. In trials, elephants were 99.7% accurate in detecting TNT samples.

“Our findings indicate that elephants are almost 5% more likely than dogs to indicate the presence of TNT when, in fact, there is none. But dogs are almost 6% more likely to miss TNT than elephants are. It’s obviously better for TNT detectors to be prone to false positives rather than false negatives: in fact it could be the difference between life and death.”

Although elephants are too large to be in-field detectors, their sensitivity and longevity make them ideal for conducting screening of off-site samples.

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