October 12, 2003, Updated September 13, 2012

The boars proved more efficient than electronic detectors because in areas with a number of other metal objects, such as train tracks or dumps, they were able to distinguish the explosives from the rest of the metal.A young Israeli may have found an extremely low-tech – though extremely non-kosher – way of detecting landmines. He’s discovered that wild boars excel at locating mines, explosives and gun powder.

The problem of landmines is a world-wide concern, Approximately 55 million landmines in nearly 60 countries cause over 10,000 casualties each year.

The discovery of the porcine ability to detect buried explosives took place when Geva Zin, 26, a resident of Beersheva, who had served a dog trainer in the Israel Defense Forces, traveled to Croatia, training dogs to detect land mines for a private de-mining firm. As a member of IDF bomb squad, Zin had similarly trained sniffer dogs, the animal used most commonly to detect mines.

During the course of his work in Croatia, Zin encountered dozens of wild boars who grazed in the area. “I watched their behavior and reached the conclusion that they could be better than dogs in finding mines and explosives,” Zin told Yediot Aharonot. “I noticed that they were constantly sniffing the ground and that their snout was always hovering above the ground. I also got the impression that their sense of smell was unusually developed.”

Upon his return to Israel, Zin approached the Institute for Animal Studies in Kibbutz Lahav, which raises pigs, and suggested that he train boars to find mines. His request was granted, and a nine-month research project was launched. With the assistance of Lahav residents, Moshe Tayer, and Dr. Dan Ratner, he began to train a number of a breed called “mini-pigs.”

The team hid mines under the ground and the pigs successfully detected them. In addition to the mines, the pigs were also able to locate other explosives and gun powder.

“The boars would comb an area, and note the exact point where an explosive object is buried,” Moshe Tayer told ISRAEL21c.
The research proved that the pigs could be trained to discover dummy mines, buried deep underground, quickly and efficiently – without actually touching and detonating the mines. When one of the pigs detected a mine it sat down next to it, waved its snout in the air and waited for a food reward.

Ratner said that the boars “are animals of scent; they find their food on the ground and underneath the ground. That is why they are so good at detection. We are not the first people in the world to think of this idea, but I believe we are the first to implement it.”

Zin noted that the pigs proved more efficient than electronic detectors, because in areas with a number of other metal objects, such as train tracks or dumps, they were able to distinguish the explosives from the rest of the metal.

He found that pigs, particularly females, were easier than dogs to train for the task.

“The beauty of using the boars is that it is a tool that even the unsophisticated can use. We could go into the third world, and teach even the most uneducated villagers how to work with the boar as a tool for locating land mines and saving lives,” said Tayer. But he added that at this stage, “our research is far from complete.”

A roadblock to finding additional funding locally, and to the implementation of the project internationally – is the problematic status of the pig in both the Jewish and Muslim religions – a particularly unfortunate situation, since so many of the problematic land mines are located in Muslim countries.

In Israel, in order for the pigs to be used by the Israeli army, a special rabbinical ruling would be needed to set aside the strict religious taboo on pigs. Israeli religious authorities admitted last week that they had not encountered such a case before. However, religious law could allow the normal prohibitions to be suspended to allow for “good deeds”, especially in matters of life and death. One leading Israeli rabbi told The Sunday Telegraph that a favorable religious ruling from one of the country’s chief rabbis on the use of pigs in mine clearance was possible.

In view of the local challenges for further researching and implementing his idea, Zin is planning to approach the multitude of international de-mining bodies for assistance.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director