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The practice is actually nothing new, particularly in New Zealand where early conservationist Richard Henry trained his pet dog to sniff out rare local birds for protection in the s.
Realising that imported stoats were having a devastating impact on species such as kiwi and kakapo, Henry relied upon his pooch to help translocate birds to a reserve on Resolution Island. The rest of the world have steadily been catching on to the benefits since. Moist surfaces trap odour molecules, but dog noses are also remarkably sensitive — they have around million olfactory receptors compared to 5 million in the human nose.
These receptors detect smells and send als to the brain, and dogs dedicate proportionately 40 times more of their brain to scent analysis than we do. Next time your pooch gleefully rolls in a pile of something stinky, you can think of the dogs that are being purposefully trained to save endangered animals by sniffing out scat. According to a review of scientific studies featuring conservation dogsaround half of them focus on patrolling for poo.
Worldwide, dogs have helped scientists to track snow leopards, koalas, gorillas and even killer whales by following their nose to the muck. By successfully tracking and sampling the excrement, scientists can check on the health of the Southern resident orca population, which faces profound environmental stress from disrupted food supplies, pollution and boat traffic.
For their co-operation, the dogs receive their favourite treat.
Enthusiastic pups are a must for the programme, but handlers need to match this with patience, curiosity and hard work. Pairing a conservation dog with their handler is critical to the success of the work".
After the scat sniffers, the next most common task for conservation dogs is live animal detection. With their years of experience, New Zealand is considered global leaders in the use of conservation dogs for seeking out hard to find species.
They have helped to survey wind farms in order to gauge bat fatalities — one trial showed how dogs were more than three times better at finding bat carcasses than humans.
By filtering air samples through special sniff p, the dogs are able to work in a climate-controlled room instead of slogging around the docks in the hot sun visiting each container. Elsewhere in Africa there are dogs working at the extreme frontline of conservation.
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Dogs make for great conservationists. Featured image by Conservation Canines.BBC looking for Friends with Benefits
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