Go to main content

Name: Katja. Profession: Explosive detector

Explosive weapons
Senegal

At nine years of age, Katja is something of a veteran. However, each day this female Belgian Shepherd comes to work with fresh energy and enthusiasm. She has worked in an impressive number of African countries: Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo... and thanks to her exceptional sense of smell she has detected dozens of explosive devices.

Katja, one of the two explosive-detection dogs. | © J-J. Bernard / Handicap International

After an hour on the road, travelling to the area to be demined in Diagnon, Katja lets it be known that she wants to get out and move around. She yaps and turns around in circles in her cage. ‘She’s a bit crazy,’ says her handler, Jonathan Matambo. ‘Katja is a very active dog, incredibly skilled. In spite of her age, she will carry on working for many years to come.’

Mine clearers who use explosive detection dogs are much faster and more efficient than mine clearers who use metal detectors. Their sense of smell can pinpoint the explosives. They are very good at detecting mines that do not contain metal – which metal detectors cannot pick up on – or intervening on land which contains lots of metallic debris.

You can immediately tell that Katja is a lively, energetic dog, who needs to be active. ‘She loves to play,’ continues Jonathan. ‘Once the work is done she gets her reward. Throwing the ball to her... She loves the fact that I take care of her, that I brush her and take her for walks. She whines a bit when I go away, or when she feels I’m not being attentive enough.’

Somewhat jealous of her handler, who she wants to keep all to herself, Katja was not exactly the model of friendliness on my first visit. However, once she has become accustomed to new people, she can be really affectionate.

The lady doesn’t like to be disturbed when she’s at work. She can be easily distracted. It is at these times that the dog handler has to be at his most vigilant. But once she gets going, she’s tireless and nothing gets past her!

At home, Katja and her colleague Rex, a German Shepherd, each have their own area outside of Jonathan’s house: ‘I never bring them into the house, they aren’t pets. They need to understand that ours is a professional relationship.’

Where your support helps

Read more

The woman who destroys bombs: HI deminer featured on BBC
© Philippa Poussereau/HI
Explosive weapons

The woman who destroys bombs: HI deminer featured on BBC

Humanity & Inclusion’s demining team in Laos was recently featured in Earth’s Natural Wonders on BBC1. You can watch our teams in action below!

Tune in to see HI's demining work in Laos featured on BBC1
© Philippa Poussereau/HI
Explosive weapons

Tune in to see HI's demining work in Laos featured on BBC1

The BBC recently visited Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Laos to film our incredible deminers! Tune in to watch Earth’s Natural Wonders on BBC1 at 9pm on Wednesday 7th March.

Humanity & Inclusion condemns the unending bombardment of besieged Eastern Ghouta Emergency Explosive weapons

Humanity & Inclusion condemns the unending bombardment of besieged Eastern Ghouta

The extreme escalation of bombardment in the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta in the past 48 hours has caused more than 200 civilian deaths and extensive damage to infrastructure – particularly hospitals, clinics and shelters where civilians are taking refuge. 390,000 civilians are besieged under heavy shelling, airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks in the enclave of Eastern Ghouta, with dwindling water, food and medical supplies.