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Sherlock the vulture - man's new best friend?

[ 2010-05-19 11:42]     字号 [] [] []  
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With a face like a turkey, a blood-red head, big beady eyes and large curved beak, Sherlock the vulture is no oil painting.

But police in Germany are hoping the bird could be the latest, low-tech weapon in their armory: They want to harness Sherlock's incredible sense of smell to locate the dead bodies that sniffer dogs can't reach.

They want to attach global positioning system tracking devices to Sherlock and get him to find the corpses of people who have disappeared in remote areas.

"It was a colleague of mine who got the idea from watching a nature program," said policeman Rainer Herrmann.

"If it works, time could be saved when looking for dead bodies because the birds can cover a much vaster area than sniffer dogs or humans."

Birds generally rely mostly on sight to locate their supper. But vultures like Sherlock have a keen sense of smell and are able to detect the scent of rotting flesh from 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) in the air.

He can even find remains in woodland or in thick undergrowth.

He is being readied for his new mission at Walsrode south of Hamburg, the largest bird park in the world with 650 different species from all corners and habitats of the globe spread over 24 hectares (60 acres).

The bird, who is more at home soaring over South America's Andes or the Atacama Desert than northern Germany's Lueneburg Heath, is being taught by trainer German Alonso to love the putrid smell of dead human flesh.

Every day Alonso puts pieces of meat in small cups, on top of a strip of cloth - provided by the police - that has been used to cover a corpse. Sherlock's mission is to locate these tasty morsels.

If time allows, Sherlock is persuaded to perform this feat as part of the park's daily shows.

"Sherlock has become pretty well known in Germany. He has been in lots of television programs and newspaper articles," Alonso says. "Sherlock now has a rough idea of what he has to do."


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Sherlock the vulture - man's new best friend?

About the broadcaster:

Sherlock the vulture - man's new best friend?

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.