Dogs have long been used to scent and retrieve prey for hunters but in more recent times people are harnessing this amazing capability that dogs have for other purposes. Detection dogs have been used to find narcotics, bombs, cancer, missing pets and people, illegal animal products such as ivory, bed bugs, termite's, electronic devices such as phones and computers and now for conservation. Around the world dogs are successfully detecting pest plants and animals as well as threatened species and their scats. This ability to detect the minutest traces of an animal or plant has proven highly successful for conservation, as dogs can locate the animal itself or just their scats (faeces). By training a dog to locate a specific species scat, reduces any stress on the animal and an animal's scat contains a wealth of information which can be used by scientist to learn about an animal's diet, sex and health as well as the genetics of a population. This information is invaluable in designing conservation programs and monitoring populations of threatened species. Conservations dogs can also be used to detect invasive weeds and pest animals which increases the efficiency and overall success of eradication programs, which is often critical in conservation efforts. Across the world conservation detection dogs have been successfully used to locate the scats of carnivores such as bears, African cats and the fennic fox. They are also detecting an invasive trout species in the rivers in Montana, invasive mussels across several American states, Orca scats in the ocean, invasive beetles, numerous invasive weeds and diseases in populations of free ranging deer in Yellow Stone National Park.
In Australia, conservation detection dogs are being used to locate Quolls and Koala's as well as for electric ant and feral cat control programs.
Written by Jacqui Richards at Queensland, Australia, Environmental Services