Specialist de-mining company Denel Mechem, a division of Denel Land Systems, has received a number of large orders for its trained dogs, with 100 in training and 140 on order for use in the detection of a wide range of substances, including drugs, animal parts, explosives, currency and even cellphones.
In South Africa Mechem is working on several contracts – for instance it was recently awarded a contract from the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) to supply dogs to protect its facilities.
For the anti-poaching role, Mechem has trained dogs to track poachers and sniff out evidence (such as spent cartridges) as well as attack poachers and protect rangers. The company has in the past supplied dogs to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for mostly anti-poaching and border patrol duties but has also supplied dogs to SA National Parks (SANParks) for ranger training. Apart from SANParks, Mechem dogs are working in a number of private parks in the anti-poaching role.
Mechem dogs are working at Cape Town International Airport and Oliver R Tambo International Airport sniffing for explosives, especially hidden in freight. This area of business is expanding due to increasingly strict rules on cargo from the South African Civil Aviation Authority. Apart from providing its own dogs, Mechem provides accreditation for other dogs and handlers working at freight forwarding companies.
Mechem’s dogs can be trained to sniff out almost any substance, not just drugs, rhino horn or explosives. For instance a correctional facility has used the dogs to sniff out cellphones hidden in prison cells. In this instance, the Mechem Explosives and Drug Detection System (MEDDS) is used and this involves collecting air samples from the cells and taking them to the dogs in a controlled environment.
Mechem’s dogs have also been trained to sniff out currency and in one African country have sniffed out consignments of over $10 million that people were trying to illegally take out of the country. Ashley Williams, Denel Mechem’s General Manager, said that his company is waiting for several currency dog contracts as well as a further big dog contract from Africa for either explosives or drug detection dogs.
Mechem dogs are well known for their ability to detect land mines and explosives and have been deployed to assist with explosives clearing in places like South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dogs have also been sold to Namibia, Zambia, Benin, Botswana, Kenya and Angola as well as the United Nations.
A new customer is the Lebanese Army, which is using Mechem sniffer dogs to clear explosives left over from the Israeli invasion. Williams told defenceWeb that the dogs had been very well received in Lebanon.