island conservation canines dogs

Detection Dogs Aid Conservation

Man’s best friends aid in conservation efforts around the world. Detection dogs help biologists to quickly identify and evaluate the presence of invasive species on an island.

Two islands off the coast of New Zealand had a recent invasive species scare in December. Mana and Matiu Somes Islands have been pest-free for over a decade, but in December reports surfaced of a feral cat on Mana and a rat on Matiu Somes. The Department of Conservation sprang into action and sent Detection Dogs, also known as Conservation Dogs, out to investigate the islands.

Wait, what? Conservation dogs? Yes, you read that correctly. Conservation dogs are specially trained to detect a variety of invasive species such as feral cats, rats, mice, stoats, and even Argentine ants. Conservation biologists are able to efficiently detect the presence of invasive species. Luckily, the Conservation dogs did not find invasive feral cats or rats on the island. Colin Giddy, a Department of Conservation Biodiversity Supervisor said:

A single rat would be a disaster for any of our precious islands, especially if it were a pregnant female….One litter can produce 22 offspring and a pair of rats can multiply to 2000 in a single year, which is more than enough to overrun the island and decimate bird and lizard numbers.

Island Conservation Island Detection Dogs

Finn the Detection Dog helped Island Conservation confirm the removal of invasive rabbits from Choros Island, Chile. Credit: Tommy Hall/Island Conservation

Canine detection was not the Department’s only approach to searching for invasive species. The reports of invasive species sightings quickly triggered a series of protocols to confirm or deny the sightings. Tracking tunnels, traps, and motion detection cameras were put in place. None found an indication of invasive predators. Giddy commented:

It’s the best result, and great to test our response protocols and keep us on our toes.

Island Conservation also uses detection dogs to confirm the completion of projects. Dogs let us know that all the hard work that we and our partners have done to remove invasive species from an island has been accomplished. Thanks to detection dogs, conservation biologists can know for a fact that an island is predator-free.

Featured photo: Training a canine in the Galapagos. Credit: Rebecca Ross
Source: Scoop New Zealand

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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