Conservation dog follows his nose to find dragons

A springer spaniel detection dog named Tommy is using his nose to help the ACT Parks and Conservation Service monitor the iconic and endangered Grassland Earless Dragon.

Tommy can identify and respond to the scent of Grassland Earless Dragons across a 20 metre squared area within one minute – a fraction of the time it takes a human ranger searching by eye.

ACT Parks and Conservation Service has been investigating innovative ways to survey the Grassland Earless Dragon as part of its long-standing monitoring program.

Conservation detection dogs are a highly effective, accurate and efficient tool for detecting illusive species in a range of habitats.

Grassland Earless Dragon monitoring currently involves four staff undertaking regular checks over a period of seven weeks.

This pilot program paves the way for more efficient and effective monitoring of the native species. Initial results look promising and the dogs have the potential to enable a more accurate assessment of population numbers.

Declared as an endangered species in 1996, the Grassland Earless Dragon faces major threats such as overgrazing, drought and climate change. The species is likely to be listed as critically endangered in the near future.

We’re also hoping the trial will confirm the presence of Grassland Earless Dragons in areas where they were thought to have disappeared.

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