Cost-effective scat-detection dogs

Do you remember the scene in Jurassic Park, when they searched for dino scat to locate rare species. That’s it what’s about in a new study in the scientific journal „NATURE“: “ Cost-effective scat-detection dogs: unleashing a powerful new tool for international mammalian conservation biology“ NATURE – Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 34758 (2016) – :10.1038/srep34758

Recently, detection dogs have been utilized to collect fecal samples from cryptic and rare mammals. Despite the great promise of this technique for conservation biology, its broader application has been limited by the high cost (tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and logistical challenges of employing a scat-detection dog team while conducting international, collaborative research. Through an international collaboration of primatologists and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, the scintists trained and used a detection dog to find scat from three species of unhabituated, free-ranging primates, for less than $3,000. They collected 137 non-human primate fecal samples that they confirmed by sequencing taxonomically informative genetic markers. The detection dog team had a 92% accuracy rate, significantly outperforming our human-only team. The results demonstrate that detection dogs can locate fecal samples from unhabituated primates with variable diets, locomotion, and grouping patterns, despite challenging field conditions. They provide a model for in-country training, while also building local capacity for conservation and genetic monitoring. Unlike previous efforts, this approach will allow for the wide adoption of scat-detection dogs in international conservation biology

(Foto: Håkon Thingstad IMG_1191CC BY-SA 2.0)