September 17, 2012

A dog is a whale's best friend

I love this article in The New York Times about a dog who has been trained to detect whale scat from up to a mile away. And he does it all without getting seasick! Says the article:

And it is not easy. Scat can sink or disperse in 30 minutes or less. But it is crucial in monitoring the health of the whales here, an endangered group that is probably among the most studied animal populations in the world. Most of the 85 or so orcas, or killer whales, that frequent the San Juans, about two hours northwest of Seattle, have been genotyped and tracked for decades, down to their birth years and number of offspring.

So I did some web research (a.k.a. procrastinating) into the Center for Conservation Biology (up north in Seattle). They are devoted to recruiting dogs to help them help other animals.
Some of the most pressing conservation issues need to distinguish between multiple, concurrent pressures facing wildlife over a large geographic range. The Conservation Canines program addresses this need by combining the precision and efficiency of detection dogs to readily locate wildlife scat (feces) samples with the ability to extract a wide variety of genetic and physiological indicators from these samples. These indicators enable us to ascertain species abundance, distribution, resource use, and physiological health all in relation to the environmental pressure(s) the species is encountering.

An organization devoted to training (and rescuing) dogs for conservation purposes. That's right. These dogs are all rescue dogs. This is so amazing and I think it might find its way into book three.