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Honey Bees Being Trained to Find Landmines
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/5/2007 | Science | Unrated
New landmine detection method is created in Croatia
Honey Bees Being Trained to Find Landmines

Mine Detection Method Was Created in Croatia, at the University of Zagreb
By Griff
Published May 30, 2007

An interesting new way of detecting lands mines is being reported by the BBC today. According to the BBC the new method uses regular
honeybees to search out and alert their human companions of dangerous land mines.  The new land mine detection method was created in Croatia, at the University of Zagreb. One of the scientists working on the project,
  professor Nikola Kezic, told the BBC, "We started this because our citizens are exposed to serious risks with mines. Luckily we also have a long tradition of keeping bees and making honey. Our solution makes use of what we have."  So how are simple honeybees trained to detect land mines? According to the BBC and Professor Kezic, a tent is set up in which a bee hive is placed along with a number of places for the bee to find food. The key is in the feeding locations. Only a selection of feeding  locations actually has food for the bees. These selected locations have soil surrounding them that contains the explosive material found in land mines. Eventually the bees associate the smell of explosives to food.  Professor Kezic says that this is a quick learning process that takes less than a week.
The initial stage of the project has been a success and the next step is to test the bees for real in an area that de-mining teams have already  visited to see if they detect any missed mines.  Croatia, which is now a popular holiday destination, was not to long ago part of one of Europe's most recent major conflicts that occurred at  the end of the Soviet era. Croatia was once part of Yugoslavia. When Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s there were a number of conflicts in  the region such as Bosnia and Croatia. As a result there are many landmines hidden in the earth around the country and these pose a  serious danger for the people living in the affected areas of Croatia's countryside.
It is thought that there are still around 250,000 land mines hidden in the land of Croatia. The BBC has reported that over 100 deaths have  ccurred as a result of land mines in Croatia in the last nine years. Bees aren't the only animals that are being trained and used for landmine detection. In Africa rats are being used. The Seattle Times got the  chance to meet Henrietta a four-pound African giant pouched rat that is in the middle of her training for landmine detection in Morogoro,  Tanzania. When Henrietta finds a land mine she begins to dig in the ground, when this happens her trainer uses a clicker to tell her she was  good. She then goes over to her trainer to receive a food reward.  The man behind using rats to detect land mines is a Belgian by the name of Bart Weetjens. When he spoke with the Seattle Times, Weetjens said of the rats, "They are very keen to work, as long as they get food." He also said, "The training is very simple. We associate a  food reward with a target scent."  Weetjens came up with the idea to use rats after trying to think of an alternative to German shepherds. According to the Seattle Times the  dog worked well but were costly, and susceptible to "tropical disease" and even "Occasionally, one will trigger a mine".  The Giant African rats were used because they were not heavy enough to set of mines and extremely resilient to diseases. 

According to the Seattle Times close to 20,000 people are killed by landmines each year. 


Formatted for CROWN by   Marko Puljiæ
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