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Dogged film work wins deal

SOUTH Perth-based film company Storyteller Media Group is producing a one-hour documentary special to be shown on the Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet and a set of training videos aimed at helping rid the world of landmines.

The company’s documentary centres on the use of sniffer dogs to detect landmines in Afghanistan.

Storyteller head of production Ingo Helbig said the story idea came after the business came into contact with former Western Australian Dr Ian McLean, who is working with the Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining. The centre researches and oversees the dogs sniffing out landmines.

“Dogs have a tremendous sense of smell. They can detect minute traces of explosives in the air – even from landmines that have been buried for 10 years,” Mr Helbig said.

“A dog will go out with its handler and when it detects a landmine it just sits quietly until the mine is tagged.

“It takes two years to train a sniffer dog and its handler. The dogs are actually trained with a ball that they get very excited about. That way they know to get excited about the ball and not the landmine they have just found.”

There are about 1,200 sniffer dogs at work in Afghanistan. Their handlers are all Afghanis.

The de-mining program was originally started by Germans and continued throughout the Taliban’s rule.

Besides the documentary, the four training videos will be produced for other landmine-afflicted countries, such as Mozambique.

Mr Helbig said while the project had been interesting, it had not been without its perils.

“It was hot, dusty and dangerous,” he said.

“On one occasion the crew bunked in a guest house that was not too far away from the US compound. That compound was shelled and the crew were knocked out of their beds by the blasts.”

There are an estimated 10 million landmines still buried throughout Afghanistan, some dating back to the Soviet occupation. Others have been planted throughout Afghanistan’s troubled times since the Soviet troops left. The landmines pose a huge problem. Children cannot play safely and in many areas farmers cannot safely work their fields.

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