WATCH | Meet Jane - the explosives-sniffing dog keeping you safe at the Cape Town Airport

2019-12-02 04:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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Jane has some very special superpowers - she can sniff out explosives in a crowd of hundreds of people, including guns.

She is also a two-year-old labrador-pointer mixed dog - one of seven that form Cape Town International Airport's K9 unit. Their job is to sniff out the contents of unattended baggage and any bad guys that might travel through the airport.

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Her handler and best friend Monica Tessendorf - who's been working with dogs for six years - says it's not a job that's as easy as it looks. 

"People think it's taking a leash and walking a dog - it's not that easy, you need to know how to care for your dog," says Tessendorf as she demonstrated Jane's special skills at the airport. To become a handler, there are various levels of courses one needs to take, starting with basic care for a working dog, and the highest level is where you learn how to work with an explosives-sniffing wiz.

Jane is the only female on the team, and thus gets to go home with Tessendorf while the rest of the males normally stays in kennels. While females are normally spayed, male dogs are not because it affects their confidence in their work and can get too territorial when they go home with their handler. 

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Airport ready for the festive season

While the airport hasn't seen any major threats over the years, general manager Deon Cloete sees the dogs as a comforting prevention measure that forms part of a larger safety mechanism.

"We want to make sure we are not seen as a soft target."

As Cape Town gears up for the influx of festive season visitors, Cloete says their peak season plans have been signed off and are ready for deployment. Seasonal carriers will start arriving now, including the hotly anticipated first flight of the Cape Town-New York route operated by Delta Airline, starting on 16 December. In the last four years the airport has retained almost all of its new routes, barring the exception of the collapse of Thomas Cook.

"We are very closely hovering to 11 million passengers over a 12-month period," adds Cloete. "We believe we'll achieve that at the end of our financial year in March of next year."

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Arrivals in 2019 have been a bit subdued due to broader factors like the water crisis, but this is expected to bounce back next year. 

So when you're travelling through the airport hordes on the way to your December destination, be on the lookout for our four-legged protectors - but remember to fight the urge to pet them.

sniffer dog and handler standing next to wine barr

Monica Tessendorf and Jane. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

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