Field Research and Conservation in Africa
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Floris and Ginger - the SCAT team
In 2008-2010 my dog Ginger had training sessions to learn to identify cheetah scat. While her drive was OK, Ginger was raised more as a pet than as a working dog. She knew that even if she did not find a scat, we would still have a ball back at the house to play with. She knew that she would get attention and praise even when she did not feel like working. And most of all, she loves searching for squirrls, mongoose and rats. She was genuinely spoiled! Sure, she would find the scat on occasion, but she pretty much walked past about as many as she found.
This year we called on the experts at KK Security for more assistance (they also assisted with Ginger training). There were a few dogs at KK that were back-up to the really good working dogs. Floris is a black German Shepherd that was born in the Netherlands. He has a strong play drive and can find his target well. But Floris searches with his mouth open. As an explosive sniffing dog, opening the mouth could be a matter of life or death. If there is only a trace of explosive, he may miss it resulting in disaster. Since a cheetah does not usually poop just a little… we decided to give Floris a try. He has been a star!
Volunteer, Reinier, and I spent the better part of March and April working with the KK Security people. We decided to bring Ginger along on the training sessions and found that she and Floris make a great team. Ginger is comfortable in the bush and travelling around our study area, so she makes Floris feel more secure. Floris seems to give Ginger the drive to find the scat and avoid the rat.
Reinier will continue to work with the students until he has to head back to Floris’ home country at the end of June. By then Nelson should have learned all the handling tips.
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