Sniffer Detector Dogs have been used in the past for the war on drugs, explosives, termites and feral animals. That concept is now being adaptedto the conservation of threatened wildlife. As threatened species decline in number they become harder to detect, and therefore harder to conserve. Increasing amounts of funding are being spent on large scale survey efforts to try to find these disappearing species, while success levels from the surveys drop.
An innovative solution to this problem is required. Dogs’ noses are incredibly sensitive and while a human might do a visual search and walk straight past a scat, a detection dog won’t miss it. Between April 2012 and June 2013, AEFI supported a research project which evaluated the performance of scat detection dogs under Australian conditions. Dr Kellie Leigh undertook the research project, supported by a grant from the Australian Academy of Science and with Project Partner Martin Dominick from K9 Centre Australia providing advice and expertise for dog training.
The dog pictured here is Kellie's dog Badger, a Tiger Quoll scat detection dog, who we believe is Australia's first K9 research graduate! His performance in detecting tiny amounts of aged scats across the landscape was very impressive, and will soon be published in a scientific journal. This information will provide some guidelines for others using scat detection dogs, to maximise the likelihood of the dog successfully finding the target scats.
AEFI committee member Dr Jim Shields also has a koala detection dog, Oscar the black laborador. The team works to locate declining koala populations which can otherwise be very hard to find, in NSW and inter-state.