26 September 2023

Detection dogs sniff out rare orchid

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Two English springer spaniels deployed as part of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) Saving our Species (SoS) program are helping to find a very rare underground orchid in Barrington Tops National Park.

Senior Project Officer for SoS, Paul Hillier said the orchid was being investigated as a potential new species.

“Most of the plant grows underground, and only the flower is visible above ground – but even this is nearly always covered by leaf litter,” Mr Hillier said.

“The clever canines – who usually search for koalas and quolls – were given just four flowers to learn to identify the scent during training,” he said.

“This is the first time detection dogs have been used to find underground orchids, and it was a resounding success.”

Mr Hillier said that although Barrington Tops National Park had been recently impacted by bushfires, the area with the underground orchid was unaffected.

He said the dogs would return in winter, when the orchid flowers started emerging again, to search across more locations.

He said the exercise was laying the groundwork for finding other elusive species such as the threatened eastern underground orchid.

“This work opens up a doorway for us to come out and find other species that are also proving a challenge to work with and conserve,” Mr Hillier said.

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