Species detection dogs for the protection of endangered wildlife
Location: Neunkirchen – Germany,
Story by: Felix Böcker
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.