After 11 years (80 human years) of hard work and loyal service, her time has come.
Tūī – Auckland Council’s first and the country’s oldest pest detection dog, is putting her remarkable nose to rest and her paws up. This mother of two is passing the bone to the next generation with her sons Pai and Hairy already part of the pest detection team.
While her energy levels are still high, her zest for the job has waned; failing sight and hearing means Tūī can no longer perform at the level she aspires to protect the region’s environment. She’s taking on a new role with lighter duties, that of a family pet.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a rodent dog on the team of Tūī's calibre,” says Richard Hills, Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee.
"The battle to stop pests like rats, stoats and skinks causing devastation on the islands is a constant challenge but Tūī and her elite team of operatives have done a great job of hunting them down if they’re trying to stowaway.”
Handler Brian Shields has worked with Tūī all her working life; they’ve been involved in some of the country’s biggest pest eradication programmes on the Antipodes Islands, Mercury Island, Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island.
“She’s is such a good-natured, easy-going dog who loves to work,” says Brian.
“For 13 and a half years she’s been my constant companion; she trusts me implicitly. Being around endangered species, you need a fearless but even-tempered dog, one who is consistent and well-balanced. She is the only girl I trust completely!"
From a lone conservation team seven years ago, Auckland Council’s pest detection dog team has grown to 16 dogs, including those in training, each with their own speciality and focused on the Hauraki Gulf islands and preventing pests leaving Auckland’s waterfront for an island excursion. This growth has been enabled by the introduction of the Natural Environment Target Rate.
And now this grand dame of pest detection has the final say; her message to Aucklanders, “I’ve spent many years keeping these islands pest free, I’m relying on you all to play your part to keep them that way.”