Pretoria – In his very first police raid an 18-month-old German Shepherd sniffed out 84kg of copper for the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
Omaga recently completed his training as a copper sniffer dog and made this find on Wednesday at the Beit Bridge border post. The copper was concealed in luggage in a trailer entering South Africa.
Omaga is the second sniffer dog to be trained by Sars. Milo, a five-year-old Labrador, has also already nosed out his first contraband copper.
According to Sars there has been increased smuggling of copper wire across the border into South Africa, since copper has a much higher value here than in the other member states of the Southern African Development Community.
The wire is usually concealed in compartments under trucks and the increase has meant that Sars has had to beef up its ability to track it down.
Sars is the second agency in this country and in Africa to train dogs to sniff out copper wire, but the first to also train them to find tobacco and drugs.
According to Sars, its team of 72 sniffer dogs is an integral part of its customs workforce and the dogs are regarded as officers in their own right.
The dogs are looked after with the utmost care.
Rae Cruikshank, group head of Sars customs operations, told Sake24 that the dogs have special "uniforms", such as reflective jackets, cooling jackets in the heat and "shoes" that look like running shoes to protect their paws from hot surfaces.
By using sniffer dogs at the country's borders, says Sars, the customs team can focus on an important aspect of the customs modernisation programme, which is to shorten waiting times and reduce queues at border posts.
The dogs can ferret out smuggled goods far more quickly than any customs officer.
Omaga seems pleased with himself about the bag of copper wire that he picked out for the South African Revenue Service.
Five-year-old Milo has also identified copper wire. These two dogs are the first to be trained to sniff out copper as well as tobacco and drugs.
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