We all know dogs are our best friends. Did you know dogs also play a growing and important role in conservation around the world?
Some of the staff at AMRRIC have been fortunate to have seen a special conservation dog in action. Edna, the cane toad sniffer dog on Groote Eylandt, NT, has been pivotal in keeping the largest island (in a larger archipelago) free of cane toads. This is important because Groote Eylandt is of very high conservation significance, including as a stronghold for the northern quoll, or Yiniyerruwena. The northern quoll is declining in part because they ingest cane toads which are poisonous to them. You can see Edna in action here.
Recognising the growing use of dogs in conservation, a group of researchers, dog handlers and trainers, ecologists, educators and advocates founded the Australasian Conservation Dog Network in 2017. Already inspired by conservation dogs, AMRRIC was proud to be a Rainbow Sponsor of the inaugural 2022 Conservation Dog Conference, held in Canberra on 18-19 August 2022. Presenters shared their broad range of experiences with these super sniffing canines, which are involved in detection of threatened plants such as the spiny rice flower, threatened frogs, invasive weeds (alligator weed, cordgrass, hawkweed), invasive fish and invasive predators. They can also be used in very specific situations, for example, to detect oestrus in captive Tasmanian devils and slowly leaking water pipes.
Besides detection, there are two other broad conservation uses for our canine friends. These are in a biosecurity context (like Edna, and beagles at the airport) and as guardian dogs. Often, maremmas are used as guardian dogs-they can be used to protect livestock, or native species-you may remember in the movie Oddball was used to protect a penguin colony in Victoria.
It was wonderful and inspiring to see so many photos and video clips of these canine wonders at work, and the excitement they show when they find their target is nothing short of adorable. Want to learn more? Check out the Australasian Conservation Dog Network and follow them on Facebook.
AMRRIC extends its sincere thanks to the Australasian Conservation Dog Network for organising this fantastic event, and for kindly donating the proceeds of their conference raffle to us. We really appreciate the support, and we will continue to follow the growing conservation dog sector with great interest!