The training of five Belgian shepherd dogs for Greece’s new Special Poisoned Bait Detection Units (EMADD) has been completed, the Energy and Environment Ministry announced on Friday.
Seven EMADD teams will go into action for the first time this summer. The dogs will be tasked with clearing the countryside of poison bait.
A single poisoned animal or other type of poisoned bait can lead to the mass killing – or even the local extinction – of a species, a phenomenon that is uncontrollable and in most cases goes unrecorded. It mainly affects carnivorous birds of prey like vultures, but also endangers mammalian species.
The Belgian shepherd dog breed was chosen for these search missions for its endurance, intelligence and excellent sense of smell and hearing.
The dogs were born in Huelma, Spain, in May 2021, where they received their first training. Their Spanish trainers also continued the dogs’ training in Larissa.
The specially trained dogs and their handlers will be deployed in protected natural areas in Thrace, Epirus, Western Thessaly and Western Central Greece in order to locate and remove poisoned baits from the field before they can cause further poisoning.
These areas fall under the jurisdiction of the Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA), which is supervised by the ministry. NECCA will also undertake the costs of the dogs’ medical care and feeding.
Deputy Minister Giorgos Amiras, who followed the final stages of the dogs’ training at the 110th Air Force Combat Wing in Larissa, said the presence of the dogs shows that the “struggle for the protection of ecosystems and the species they host is intensifying.”
“Protecting biodiversity is key to dealing with the climate crisis,” he added. [AMNA, Ekathimerini]