Australian dogs trained to sniff out endangered species

 06 Dec 2017 - 9:22

Australian dogs trained to sniff out endangered species
A file photo of a spotted tiger quoll seen in its enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney May 7, 2014. / AFP / PETER PARKS

AFP

Sydney, Australian dogs are being trained to sniff out the droppings of endangered animals in a scheme that offers greater understanding of threatened species through the less-intrusive method of canine tracking.

Emma Bennett, a PhD candidate at Monash University in Melbourne, is working with environmentally-conscious dog owners who have volunteered their pets in a rainforest region of Victoria state to track the scats, or droppings, of the endangered tiger quoll, a small marsupial.

"Scats contain DNA, so you can identify the individual animal," Bennett told AFP on Wednesday.

"They also contain information about diet distribution."

The dogs -- of varying breeds, including border collies and german shepherds -- have been found to have "very high" early detection rates of 50-70 percent accuracy in discovering the samples.

"They are working just as efficiently as you would expect a full time working dog to do," Bennett said.

Using canines to obtain the faeces sample is a "non-invasive" alternative to traps, reducing the risk of injury or stress, the researcher added.

"When you collect scats you're not impacting the threatened species at all, but you're still able to collect its DNA and a whole range of other information about it, so you don't have to trap the animal" she said.

The tiger quoll, a spotted carnivorous cat-like marsupial, is threatened in the southeastern Otway rainforest region by land clearing, as well as foxes and cats.

Bennett said the animal was thought to have died out in the area until a rediscovery in 2012.

She expects her study will be expanded to track other threatened species, with the use of volunteer dogs opening up the research techniques to smaller community groups as a cheaper way alternative to other methods.

"There is potential for finding someone in the community who is really passionate and into dog training to step up and go: 'I can help find that rare orchid or that burrowing frog'," Bennett said.

 

Related News

arrow Read More
New Australia laws to deal with foreign political meddling

 04 Dec 2017 - 9:14

Foreign interference in Australian politics has become a "serious problem", a top official said Monday with tougher laws on espionage and overseas donations introduced to parliament.

arrow Read More
Geoffrey Rush quits industry job after 'inappropriate behaviour' claim

 02 Dec 2017 - 10:17

Academy award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush resigned as head of an Australian film industry body Saturday after allegations surfaced against him of "inappropriate behaviour".

arrow Read More
Police foil 'attack' on school in Australia

 29 Nov 2017 - 8:58

Two teenagers have been charged with planning an attack at a school in Australia using guns and explosives in an act police Wednesday alleged was designed to harm "a large number of people".