Explosive Detection Dogs – The Wonder Dogs of Siem Reap
What do Lassie, Bolt and Scooby-Doo have in common? The answer is that they are all wonder dogs. However, the other thing that they have in common is that they are all fictional characters, and don’t really exist. If you want to see that wonder dogs really do exist, you should pay a visit to Siem Reap.
Siem Reap? Are there wonder dogs in Angkor Wat?
Siem Reap is famous as the gateway to the glorious Angkor archaeological site, and for good reason. However, it has much to offer away from the ruins. We spent two weeks in Siem Reap, and only half of that time in Angkor. For the rest of our stay, we explored the lesser known wonders. In doing so, we were delighted to come across the life-saving exploits of the Belgian Malinois breed dogs.
The NPA Explosive Detection Dogs charity has their base in Siem Reap, where their work is among a number of innovative methods in use to combat the deadly problem of landmines left over from the conflict between the USA and Vietnam. Even today, children are finding these bombs and mistaking them for toys, leading to fatalities and devastating accidents. Farmers are terrified that plowing their fields might result in a buried bomb being activated. Sadly, it has happened to so many of their countrymen over the last few decades.
With some time in Siem Reap, we learned about the work of dedicated humans at the Cambodia Landmine Museum, and about the work of hero rats at the APOPO Visitor Centre. However, it was the work of the NPA Explosive Detection Dogs that we want to highlight in this post.
Thanks to funding from a Norwegian charity, this specifically chosen dog breed is trained at the centre in Siem Reap to literally save lives. They do this by detecting landmines. Their superb sense of smell is the key. In the same way that dogs are trained by police forces to sniff out drugs, these dogs are taught to chase bombs. What is most impressive of all is that the dogs do the job in a fraction of the time it takes their human counterparts to do the same!
See the wonder dogs in action!
Even better than meeting the wonder dogs is seeing them in action. Luckily, the centre in Siem Reap has put together an exciting and entertaining demonstration where you get to do just that. After an informative video presentation, you are introduced to a number of the dogs. Usually, the dogs you meet are ones who are retired or not 100% suitable for the work involved. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about taking them away from their life-saving work for your enjoyment.
To prove that the dogs really can do the wondrous tasks that are asked of them, they make the show totally interactive. Each audience member on our visit got to take an item, and hide it somewhere on the large display area. Whilst this happend, the dogs were taken somewhere they could not see what was happening. The sense of excitement was palpable when the dogs returned and went straight to work to find the item. Of course, they wowed us with their skills, but they are not infallible. One of the dogs was not suitable for the work, due to being easily distracted by cats!
The wonder dogs are friendly, too!
Other tests of agility and skill are part of the demonstration, and a visit will certainly give you a great appreciation for the amazing work these dogs do to save so many lives. In eighteen years of running the programme, not one dog has been killed doing the work, and the difference they make to the communities they work in is incalcuable. For those of you who love dogs, you also get the chance to get up close with them at the end!
Siem Reap is a gateway to many wonders. However, not everyone realises that Siem Reap continues to innovate, centuries after the Angkor Empire declined. Don’t miss the wonder dogs of Siem Reap on your Cambodia trip. Demonstrations happen twice per day on weekdays, apart from public holidays.
Have you ever seen such inspirational dogs on your travels?