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Species detection dogs for the protection of endangered wildlife


More and more animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Their original habitats are becoming smaller and humans are encroaching further into their habitats. In addition, climate change is advancing and optimal living conditions are disappearing. Native species are thus finding it increasingly difficult to survive and are in some cases being displaced by invasive species. Even wild animals formerly native to Germany, such as the large predators wolf and lynx, which have found their way back to Germany after a long period of absence, are not yet accepted by the entire population. In order to establish suitable protection measures for the animals and strategies for the coexistence of humans and predators, monitoring is of great importance. Species tracking dogs can make a special contribution to monitoring. Felix Böcker is on the board of the non-profit association Wildlife Detection Dogs e.V., which was founded in 2015. The aim of the association is to enable a mutual exchange on the topic of training and use of species detection dogs on a European level, the establishment of the methodology and the development of a certification of detection dogs.

Story by

Felix Böcker




Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Chapter 1

starting point

The association was founded in 2015 by seven people from all over Germany. Before that, some human-dog teams were already in training and in contact with each other. Among them were already people from science, conservation and dog training.
Then as now, the focus of the work was on the possibility to exchange ideas with other people around the topic, to promote and develop the methodology in the context of science and to create first standards, guidelines and certification possibilities. The association grew very quickly and is now also represented in other countries.


Wildlife Detection Dogs

Chapter 2


Dogs can perform a wide variety of tasks due to their good sense of smell and can thus be of great help to humans in many tasks such as searching for different animal species. Due to their play instinct, their will to work as well as their willingness to cooperate with humans, they can be optimally trained for different target species. The trained human-dog teams search together effectively and non-invasively for traces and legacies of different animal species. The dogs of the association are trained for service in science and nature conservation. There they should strengthen common investigation methods qualitatively and quantitatively or partly even make them possible. The members of the association bring a high degree of professional competence with them, as they mostly have a professional background in wildlife research, monitoring or nature conservation. In fact, when working with species tracking dogs, some guidelines must be followed in order not to disturb endangered species in their habitat. Species protection law, hunting law and animal protection law must be adhered to, and acting and communicating in a factual and professional manner is of great importance in this work.

"Our goals are the dissemination and establishment of the method in cooperation with universities, research institutes, planning offices, authorities and experts, as well as the exchange of experience and information and the practical application of trained dogs."

The association, together with the support of the groups from the other countries, would like to give interested people the opportunity to deal extensively with the topic of the use of species detection dogs. In addition, an exchange is to be made possible and, if necessary, the use in the context of appropriate projects is to be prepared.

Species monitoring

The monitoring of certain species delivers a collection of relevant data about numbers and behaviours of individuals and populations. The knowledge about the development of a population delivers a reliable base for decisions about their management and allows a planning according to the actual circumstances. There is a range of monitoring methods as well as there are various technical systems to collect and store the data. One method to deal with the different categories of evidence is SCALP /with the categories C1, C2, C3). One scientifically proven tool to monitor large carnivores is the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).

Report your experience with this tool

Piotr Chmielewski


The number of wolves and lynx were assessed for whole forest complexes, not for particular administrative and economic units such as forest districts or hunting districts. Within the forest complexes, 70 inventory divisions were set up, including several forest districts and possibly a national park, separated from other parts of the complex by distinct natural or anthropogenic barriers, which could form the boundaries of the wolves and lynx territories. In each such area a coordinator was appointed, who directed the work of all units within its borders. Also in each superintendence and national park were people responsible for organization of counting and data collection. The inventory was based on two basic field activities: a year-long collection of all carnivores observations and coordinated winter traces. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences in the frame of National wolf and lynx inventory in forest superintendents and national parks in the whole country in the Instytut Biologii Ssaków Polskiej Akademii Nauk, ul. Stoczek 1, 17-230 Białowieża. It specifically involved Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 12 years (from 2000 to 2012) and received partial financial support from Own funds, financial support of the.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.

Piotr Chmielewski


Main project actions: 1. Population monitoring and scientific research on carnivores. During the winter there was intense tracking of wolves and lynx, and bear traces were also recorded. In the spring and summer, carnivores were found on walking transect networks. Carnivores, as well as all other traces of their presence - faeces, urine marking and scratching, remnants of prey, lairs - were recorded in databases of the same structure as the database of nationwide wolf and lynx inventory. 2. Prevention of damage caused by large carnivores in breeding livestock. 3. Conservation of habitats for large carnivores. Identification of young breeding and breeding sites, as well as bears, has allowed the development of recommendations and actions to protect the habitats of large carnivores in the region. 4. Education of the society. The Association for Nature Wolf ran various forms of education devoted to large carnivores. Between 1996 and 2013 more than 80 lectures, lectures and trainings were held, attended by more than 3,000 adults,pupils, and children from kindergartens. The Association also organizes Wolf Workshops, which train volunteers to help in collecting data about wolves in the field. 5. Rehabilitation of animals and restoring them to the environment. During the project several wolves and lynx were found, which required direct help. 6. Protection of transboundary populations. The study of the wolves in the Beskid Żywiecki has shown how important they are to the conservation status of this predator in the Polish Natura 2000 sites Based on the results of the research, The Association for Nature Wolf lobbied for a cross-border approach to the protection of common populations of large carnivores. This was a non-binding measure implemented by The Association for Nature Wolf in the frame of The protection of large carnivores in the Western Carpathians in a province in the Stowarzyszenie dla Natury Wilk, Twardorzeczka, ul. Cynkowa 4, 34-324 Lipowa. It specifically involved Beekeepers, Livestock risers, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 20 years (from 1997 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Own funds, EuroNatur Foundation (Gerrmany), International Fund for Animal Welfare (USA), Wolves and Humans Foundation (Great Britain) and own funds of The Association for Nature Wolf..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.

Piotr Chmielewski


Information on the conservation status of wolves and lynx in the country, including information on population status, habitat assessment, population perspectives and overall conservation status of these species. Information gained from the comparative analysis of the results of this project with the results of other projects on the use of the most up-to-date monitoring methods, including the introduction of wolf genetic testing methods, and the coherence of the results of monitoring carried out under the National Monitoring of Environment with monitoring results at the level of Natura 2000 sites in the framework of the implementation of the conservation plans and security plans nature conservation authorities. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Polish Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in the frame of Pilotage monitoring of the populations of wolf and lynx in Poland in the whole country in the the whole country - pilot ongoing project. It specifically involved Hunters, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated in 2017 and received partial financial support from EU funds, Project co-financed by EU funds under the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program 2014-2020, within the framework of the 2nd Axis of Environmental Priority, including adaptation to climate change. Action 2.4 Nature protection and ecological education, implemented in the Environmental Monitoring and Information Department of the General Inspectorate for Environmental Protection..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Ing. Slavomir Findo CSc..



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Chapter 3


Felix Böcker is certain that the use of species detection dogs will continue to increase significantly in the future.  

"Already in the past, a significant increase in the number of projects using species detection dogs can be seen. The results speak a clear language and thus it is also to be expected that this development will continue. "

The great advantage of the dogs is that they can be used in almost all areas. Depending on the area of application, they can thus help to achieve data bases more efficiently and thus also save time and money.


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