Sombra, a six-year-old German shepherd, has helped Colombia’s police detect more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine hidden in suitcases, boats and large shipments of fruit. As the dog sniffs her way toward record cocaine interdictions, she has also become the latest target of Colombia’s most powerful drug gang, reports the Associated Press.
The threat prompted officials to relocate Sombra — whose name in Spanish means Shadow — from a busy port on Colombia’s Caribbean coast to the capital city, where she now uses her extraordinary talent to sniff through suspicious cargo at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport.
After her six hour shift is over, Sombra is transported in a van with tinted windows back to her kennel. She is usually accompanied by two armed guards.
“We are responsible for her safety,” said officer Jose Rojas, Sombra’s 25-year-old handler.
RCN Radio reports her first major bust was in March 2016, when Sombra nosed her way toward a container of banana boxes that secretly held 2,958 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. The shipment was on its way to Belgium.
In May 2017, Sombra discovered another shipment heading to Belgium containing 1.1 tons of cocaine. Last June, she led police to an even larger find — 5.3 tons of cocaine, the BBC reported. Later, she discovered four more tons secreted in an auto parts shipment.
In total, her busts have resulted in 245 arrests, Colonel Carlos Fernando Villareal told RCN Radio. Sombra’s efforts for law enforcement have twice earned her the Wilson Quintero medal, an honor awarded for critical contributions to the fight against drug trafficking.
She’s been featured on local television. In airports, the dog is asked to pose for selfies with admirers. And the narcotics police regularly post about her accomplishments on Twitter. This month, police used Sombra to call out the Urabeños’ alleged notorious chief, a former paramilitary guerrilla turned drug trafficker named Dairo Antonio Úsuga. In Colombia, he’s known as Otoniel.
But all that attention has put Sombra in the Urabeños’ crosshairs.
Originally a paramilitary outfit, one of the many armed groups trading bullets in Colombia’s long national struggle, the Urabeños are now the country’s largest criminal organization and control much of the drug trade, according to InSight Crime.
Consolidating power by taking on all rivals, the group’s power base spreads along Colombia’s northwest coast.