Bloem Border Collie is SA's first doggie graduate

2016-05-19 11:38
Esté Matthew and Jessie. (Photos supplied)

Esté Matthew and Jessie. (Photos supplied)

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Johannesburg - A sheepdog from a farm in Bloemfontein is the first dog in the country ever to be awarded a degree.

Esté Matthew and her Border Collie Jessie both graduated with a Masters in Zoology from North-West University this month for their thesis: "The use of a sniffer dog for amphibian conservation ecology".

When she was 6-months-old, Jessie was trained to detect the scent of frogs below ground and to distinguish between giant African bullfrogs and other frogs. The giant African bullfrog is a protected species in Gauteng as its habitat is gradually shrinking due to urbanisation.

Matthew says Jessie was trained in a scientific and reliable manner, with the assistance of her supervisor, Professor Ché Weldon. The same test was repeated up to 45 times to ensure a reliable result, she says.

Conducting research on the frogs is no easy task as they usually hibernate for about 11 months out of the year, only coming up to the surface during November and December to breed and lay eggs.

This made gathering research throughout the rest of the year more difficult, Matthew says.

And that is where Jessie, whose parents work as sheep-herding dogs on a farm in Bloemfontein, came in. She sniffed out her first wild bullfrog above ground in December 2014. Six months later she found one below ground.

Matthew, who now works at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, says Jessie will continue to use her nose and degree to help endangered amphibians with the trust.

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  animals  |  good news

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