Whales and Tails
The sense of smell of a dog should never be underestimated. They can even find whale scat in the great blue sea! Yep, that’s right. A dog named Tucker is trained to sniff out orca scat off the coast of Washington. Found as a stray in Seattle, Tucker proved he has an unmatched talent in helping scientists research an endangered population of 85 killer whales that frequent the area.
Check out this great video news story by the New York Times about the work that Tucker does in tracking down orca scat.
Dogs Protecting Cats
An important part of protecting endangered predators, such as cheetahs and lions, is keeping them out of trouble in the first place. Livestock guardian dogs perform just such a task. This Anatolian shepherd keeps cheetahs away from livestock, and keeps the cats away from the farmers that may kill them to protect their herds. The dogs won’t attack the cats, but will scare them off. The Cheetah Conservation Fund has lead the way with research and implementation of the strategy, and cheetah mortality is, thankfully, dropping.
Dogs Helping Brazil’s Best
Four scent-working dogs have been part of an important project to help iconic species in Brazil, including jaguars, tapirs, giant anteaters, and maned wolves in and around Emas National Park, which according to Conservation International has the largest concentration of threatened species in Brazil. From 2006 to 2008, the dogs were a key part of data collection for a study that helped researchers learn more about the species by finding scat that revealed everything from diet to parasites to genetic identity. Thanks to the dogs’ help, conservationists were able to learn more about what the species need to survive, and that information can be used toward conservation plans.
The Nose Knows
In fact, tracking down evidence of endangered species is one of the biggest ways dogs help conservationists. Here are just a few of the species working dogs have already been trained to find, according to Dogs for Conservation:
Bird and Bat Mortality at wind farms
Individual Siberian Tigers
Spotted Knapweed Invasions
Ringed Seal lairs and breathing holes
Discriminate between individual Maned Wolves from scat
Right Whale Faeces
Sea Turtle Nests
Invasive Pythons in the Everglades
Detector dogs are used everywhere from airports in Africa to deter rhino horn trafficking to Ecuador where they sniff out illegally-caught shark fins!
Two amazing organizations for training and working dogs for conservation purposes are Working Dogs for Conservation and Conservation Canines from University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology.
Both adopt and train rescue shelter dogs that boast qualities that made them impossible as pets: an insatiable play drive, which makes them want to work; constant energy, because they’re working hard for hours and hours on end; and obsessiveness, which keeps them searching for a needle in a haystack so they may earn the object of their obsession, usually a ball or tug toy.
The organizations not only give these dogs a second chance at life, but give them an incredibly important and fun job to do! If you’re interested in helping these organizations and the work they do, check out their websites to find out how you can support them.