Mine detector dog Zira returns home to US after six-year service in Sri Lanka

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Mine-detecting German shepherd, Zira-Yankee bade farewell to Sri Lanka after six years of distinguished service in the Sri Lanka Army having cleared over 62,680 square metres of heavily mine-infested land area in the war-affected North.

Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE) of the Army on 30th April bade adieu to Zira-Yankee during a fond farewell on the eve of the dog’s departure back to the United States.

During a formal meeting at Chief Field Engineer’s Headquarters at Mattegoda, Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, Colonel Commandant, SLE officially handed over Zira-Yankee to Kimberly McCasland of the US-based Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI).

The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) of the United States, an international humanitarian organisation, utilises donations to purchase, train and deliver Mine Detection Dogs (MDDs) to landmine removal organisations within mine-affected countries.

According to the Army, during her committed and distinguished service in Sri Lanka with her fondly attached handler, Corporal T.K.D. Rajapaksha of the Corps of Engineers, Zira-Yankee performed her risky, but the most accurate duty in Manthuvil, and Ananthapuram at Puthukkudirippu, Vellamullivaikkal, Mahamilankulama, Kumburumulla and Komanthurai areas and managed to recover 16 anti-personnel mines, one hand grenade, one un-exploded explosive ordnance and three Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).

Born on 5 June 2009 in the US, Zira-Yankee arrived in Sri Lanka on 24 June 2011 and underwent training until 12 December 2011 before she joined the Army de-mining teams on duty in mine-infested areas. She had been of much assistance to the project and always stood by her handler, despite tropical climatic conditions and other concerns.

Joining back home with the MLI in the US, Zira-Yankee, has been selected to spearhead another world-wide promotional campaign in the US on ‘Global Landmine Issue’, expected to be launched shortly by the MLI.

Major General Ranasinghe appreciated the challenging roles of the departing dog and the support, being extended by the MLI for de-mining in Sri Lanka.

Zira-Yankee, along with the MLI representative left for the US on Tuesday (2).

Sri Lanka Army’s Mine Detection Dogs (MDD) have come in for praise of the international community in the recent past. The dog, ‘Alvin’ and its handler Lance Corporal G.N.W.M. Nawarathne in the Army Mine Detection Team received the MDD Award of the Year 2016 recognising the duo as the ‘MLI’s Team of the Year – 2016’ after inviting both of them to Washington.

In 2012 also, Sri Lanka Army’s demining team of sapper DKN Rohan of the Sri Lanka Army Engineers and Mine Detection Dog Spartacus received the honour as the best Mine Detection Dog (MDD) Team for the year 2012.