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Sharp Senses: Wilson Dog

Photo: Colombian Army / AFP

The joy in Colombia was great in mid-June when four siblings were found alive after a plane crash in the Amazon rainforest. They had endured in nature for 40 days after the accident, then the paw prints of the search dog Wilson led the rescue teams to the children. But the Belgian shepherd was lost during the search and now the animal itself has become the target of an elaborate rescue operation. Regional and international media follow the search for the four-legged friend.

According to the Colombian military, 70 soldiers are now involved in the search for Wilson in the dense jungle. "For us, it was an honor that our dog helped find these children," said Sergeant Luis Fernando Seña, the commander of the dog school where Wilson was trained for 14 months in Bogota. "It would be great news for the country and for our children if he could be found."

Wilson graduated from dog school in February and was transferred to special forces at Tolemaida airbase. Together with four other sniffer dogs, Wilson was then taken to the rainforest in May to find the Cessna plane that had crashed in the rainforest with the four children and three adults on board. The adults, including the children's mother, were killed in the crash.

When the small plane was found and the search party realized that the children might still be alive, Wilson's handler gave him some clothes to sniff out to track down the children.

Two in heat as bait

The sniffer dog was separated from the search party on May 18 after running into the forest following a trail. Ten days later, in addition to his paw prints, the military also found footprints of the children. These clues eventually helped them approach the area where the children were found on June 9. This was stated by General Pedro Sanchez, who led the rescue operation.

"The children spoke to us and confirmed that the dog had been with them for two or three days," Sanchez told a Colombian radio station. Currently, the siblings are recovering in a hospital.

Last week, the Colombian military announced that it had flown two in heat by helicopter to the area around the crash site in order to lure Wilson close to the search team. In addition, food for the dog, as well as clothing for its handler, were placed in several places around the crash site, in the hope that their smell could bring Wilson to safety.