25 September 2023

Detection dog a dragon hunter

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The ACT Parks and Conservation Service has enlisted the talents of a springer spaniel detection dog to help it monitor and protect the endangered Grassland Earless Dragon.

Tommy the ‘dragon dog’ can identify and respond to the scent of Grassland Earless Dragons across a 20-metre square area within one minute — a fraction of the time it takes a human ranger searching by eye.

ACT Parks and Conservation Service said it had 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 elusive species in a range of habitats,” it said.

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

It said the pilot program paved the way for more efficient and effective monitoring of the native species with initial results looking promising.

“The dogs have the potential to enable a more accurate assessment of population numbers,” the Service said.

Declared an endangered species in 1996, the Grassland Earless Dragon faces major threats such as overgrazing, drought and climate change.

It said the species was 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,” the Service said.

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