Is your dog's poo-sniffing habit driving you wild? Take heart...

2017-03-11 17:28
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Harare - Is your dog's poo-sniffing habit driving you wild?

Take heart: researchers from the Zoological Society in London and their colleagues have put dogs' uncanny ability to root out other animals' droppings to VERY good use: helping to determine the number and distribution of cheetahs in an area of western Zambia.

In a paper published in the journal Zoology, the authors explain that while specially-trained "scat detection dogs" have already been used in other carnivore surveys, the dogs had not previously been tested in surveys of extremely wide-ranging species like cheetah.

Cheetah surveys are notoriously hard to carry out. The numbers of these elusive animals across Africa are declining as their habitat shrinks.

Two Belgian Malinois sniffer dogs were used to detect cheetah scat in the remote Liuwa–Mussuma Transfrontier Conservation Area, the paper says. Both dogs had already been used in scat detection of 15 species in four countries. Before they started this project, the dogs got special training on wild cheetah scat.

The scats the dogs found were analysed in the Zoological Society of London's genetics laboratory, the paper says.

The result?

During the 3-week survey, the dogs found 50 scats. Working with these (and other samples) researchers were finally able to come up with an estimate for the cheetah population size and density in the area.

"Our study demonstrates the efficacy of detection dog survey methods in providing information on cheetah across large landscapes," said the authors.

Read more about the study here.

Read more on:    zambia  |  southern africa  |  animals

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