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Very good dog helps sniff out pests

Published: 23 June 2017

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Read an interview with Zoe, an Auckland Council Biosecurity conservation dog.

We sat down for a chin-wag with Zoe, the newest conservation dog to join the Auckland Council Biosecurity team.

Zoe has recently graduated from the Conservation Dogs Programme as a fully qualified mustelid detection dog. The Auckland Council Biosecurity team conservation dogs are trained and managed in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and are vital to protecting our precious 44 Hauraki Gulf pest free islands.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a one-and-a-half-year-old German hunting dog and I am the best in Auckland at finding mustelids – pesky critters like stoats, weasels and ferrets.

There are five Auckland Council pest detection canine officers – we’re experts at detecting pests before they arrive on the islands and traces of them if they get there. Other conservation dogs locate threatened species, like kiwi or pāteke, to help monitoring programmes of these species.

My handler is Brian. We work closely together and he looks after me outside of work too – if I’m good I get my favourite liver treats!

Zoe the dog tilts her head to the side and wags her tongue.
Zoe at her graduation ceremony.

What kind of training did you go through on the Conservation Dog Programme?

Lots of sniffing! Our intensive training included pest scent detection, blind testing and making sure we don’t respond to non-target animals. We are also well socialised and we are trained to a much higher level of responsiveness than your average pooch.

Why is a conservation dog’s job important?

I hate it when pests like rats, stoats, Argentine ants and plague skinks reach Auckland’s pest-free islands as they injure and kill native wildlife and compete for their food. Pests can be transported to the islands in people’s equipment, vessels or goods. Our noses are better than anything else at finding these.

My work supports the Treasure Islands joint initiative between DOC and Auckland Council to help to protect conservation islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Four dogs on leashes sit in a line.
Zoe with her colleagues. From left to right: Pai, Piri, Zoe and Tegan.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?

Play with my ball!

How can we help you to find pests?

If you’re heading to a pest free island and you think you might have a pest on board your vehicle or boat, call DOC on 0800 362 468 or contact Auckland Council Biosecurity on 09 301 0101. We’ll sniff it out if there’s anything there!

Head to the Auckland Pestival on 24 June at the Aotea Centre to find out more about what we’re doing to become a Pest Free Auckland, and how you can get involved.