Mechem dogs a success in Benin


Sniffer dogs trained by Mechem, a subsidiary of state arsenal Denel have uncovered a major drug smuggling operation in the West African country of Benin. Efforts to hide the heroin in aircraft parts, bolts and screws could not prevent the four-legged sleuths from detecting the contraband.

Mechem CE Ashley Williams says in a statement the company has a contract to provide 40 sniffer dogs and the training of dog handlers to the government of Benin. The dogs are deployed at ports and airfields to counter the growing trade of drugs and illicit substances in the region.

The first major bust, no date given, was achieved within six weeks of the dogs’ arrival in the port city of Cotonou. Two Mechem instructors and three detection dogs were called out to inspect a consignment of aircraft parts. The dogs quickly alerted their handlers to the presence of drugs and when the crates were opened more than 7kg of heroin was discovered.
“The value of detection dogs in the war on drugs was again confirmed,” says Williams. “The contraband was well hidden inside metal parts and would not have been uncovered by physical inspection.” The parts and bolts had to be taken apart and sawed open to reveal the heroin.

The President of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, visited the Mechem training in Lyttleton last year and was reportedly impressed by the extraordinary skills of the dogs and their handlers, the tatement adds. Following his election as the new president of the African Union last month Mr Yayi identified drug trafficking as one of the most pressing challenges facing the African continent.

Williams says the Mechem dogs are widely known for their ability to detect land mines and explosives. Mechem personnel and dogs have been deployed with considerable success in post-conflict areas such as Southern Sudan, Afghanistan, Northern Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Their special skills are increasingly being used for the detection of drugs and other smuggled contraband such as rhino horn, ivory and abalone. The company has developed a unique system to combine modern technology with the canine capabilities to search for and uncover the smuggled substances.

The Mechem Explosives and Drug Detection System (MEDDS) involves collecting air samples from suspected containers and vehicles and taking them to the dogs in a controlled environment. When the dogs confirm the suspicion investigators take further steps to physically inspect the consignment.