Detection Dog

ACK Mary's picture
Sun, 2013-05-19 22:30 by ACK Mary · Forum/category:
Mary and Ginger - she still goes to the field even though not as a detection dog Reinier vanEsch with Floris in 2012

Chai and Cujo are not the first dogs trained by ACK staff and students. In 2008-2010 we trained my pet dog Ginger. A PhD candidate, Chifuyu Beckett (Hawksby) worked diligently to train Ginger. However, Ginger had a very strong bond to me, and the changes in ownership/training caused stress to both Ginger and to me. Ginger is also easily distracted by squirrels, monkeys and rats… thus her focus on the tack of scat detection would often take a sideline. This easy distraction stemmed from undisciplined walks where we would let her follow her nose and instincts prior to trying to train her for detection.

In 2012, we tried using an explosive and drug dog from KK Security. Several students and volunteers worked with Floris who was already very well trained. The training was going well and we thought Floris would be ready for the field prior to student arrival last June. But during the course of training, Floris began to develop hip issues, and a few weeks prior to 2012 fieldwork, we found out that Floris had early onset arthritis in his hip. He can still be used in scat detection on boxes, but his walking time could be no longer than 20 min before the pain in his hips became obvious. Floris was given kennel rest for the last year, with KK officers walking him occasionally an working him on boxes.

The purpose of detection dog training is to utilize the dogs for scat (fecal ) detection. Using a detection dog increases the number of scats found by almost ten times. It increases the accuracy of scat being from the target species to 100%. We learned a lot by looking for scat without the use of the dog. And we have learned a lot about training of the dog, I believe Chai and Cujo can be the dogs that will save cheetahs in Kenya. Deanna will train other dog handlers once we confirm the detection dog methodology. Our pilot work in Salama, Athi-Kapiti and Samburu will be the start of cheetah scat analysis for 1) understanding cheetah prey base through fecal hair analysis, 2) understanding the genetic relationships of cheetahs in different areas through DNA analysis and 3) understanding stress of cheetahs in different land use categories. Our partners in this project are the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Kenya Wildlife Service, National Museums of Kenya, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and University of Nairobi.

The analysis of fecal material will also assist in identifying the origin of cheetahs confiscated from pet trade and illeagal parts trade. Conservation efforts will be able to target the areas that are critical to the survival of cheetahs in Kenya.

Donation and grants are needed to fund the training and maintenance for these dogs. Please make a donation today!