Against Mines: Elephants take our Defense (South Africa)


Paris Match

Date Published
Translated from French by an automated online translation service, so please excuse the roughness. See link for original. Thank you to Anne Dillon for volunteering her time to find these French articles and doing the online translating.

See link for photos

Thanks to their extraordinary flair, elephants can detect tiny amounts of explosives—a talent that should soon be put in mine clearance service in Africa, without risking the lives of the elephants.
Obviously Chishuru is bigger than a dog, no doubt less obedient and more expensive to feed. But these disadvantages weigh very little compared to the incredible talent of Chishuru, an elephant of 17 years who lives in the reserve of Bela Bela, South Africa. The elephant is capable of  detecting minute amounts of TNT impregnating a sheet of paper concealed in a seal. 
As evidenced by this video, Chishuru discovers the seal containing explosives placed in the middle 
of other vessels almost every time, due to its hyper-developed sense of smell. His success rate is close to 100 percent. Of 74 trials, it was wrong once. The pachyderm reported his discovery by  placing his leg above the seal. Chishuru’s two companions were also trained to detect explosives with the same success. 
It was in 2007 that scientists who watched elephants with a GPS plotter realized that the herd carefully avoided many minefields in Angola, torn by years of deadly conflict. Thus was born the idea of ??a mine detection program by elephants, largely funded by the US military. 
But there is of course no question of animal life at risk by bringing on such risky terrain. One solution could be to collect drone soil samples taken from mined areas to submit to the elephants’ sense of smell so that it delivers its verdict. But the services rendered by these pachyderms whose flair surpasses most dogs do not stop there: they could also be asked for early diagnosis of certain 
diseases such as diabetes or cancer.