Super sniffer, sergeant ready for the action

2012-08-01 00:00

SERGEANT Joseph Cele has much to be proud of in his career, but he now also has one of the smartest “girls” on the South Coast at his beck and call.

Two-year-old Ronda is his very own Belgian Shepherd, a highly specialised search and rescue dog, who came with him from Pretoria and starts work on the South Coast and KwaZulu-Natal this week.

Cele (33) last week completed the six month search and rescue course which he described as “very tough” but something that has been his dream for many years since his aunt drowned in a river.

“I saw someone go missing in my own family and know what a desperate feeling this was and so to be able to reach this place where I can give back to the community and help is incredible.

“It has taken a long time to get here and I am just so happy I can now rescue others,” said Cele.

The rescue team is stationed at the Port Shepstone K9 unit and will be serving Port Shepstone, Margate and Kokstad clusters.

But owing to the nature of their sought-after skills, the team will also be expected to assist with operations in the rest of the province.

Cele joined the police in Scottburgh in July 2006 to follow his dream after working as a petrol attendant when he finished school.

While stationed there he used to spearfish with policemen and this led to him going on a pre-selection diving course with the police. In 2008 he was certified.

His love of water didn’t stop there because he then went on to apply to skipper a boat and has been on the water since 2010.

The recent course he and Ronda attended was arduous and took them through a full repertoire of skills.

“Ronda is a specialised dog and is trained to search for any evidence [items handled by the suspect or missing person] on crime scenes which can link a suspect or missing person to the scene.

“She can sniff out decomposed bodies or body parts and trace missing persons in most types of terrains.

Cele said she can keep a person’s scent for 48 hours.

She can follow spoor over wide open areas, identify shallow graves and is trained for crime scene analysis.

This means she can find items as small as buttons that belong to the victim by recognising smell.

“Even on a boat, the way the wind blows will help Ronda detect where someone may have drowned as history has shown that dogs can smell 45 metres deep.

“A dog’s sense of smell is 300 000 times that of a human,” said Cele.

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