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Dogs to help sniff out tigers
Monday. 2.16.09 9:24 am


Dogs to help sniff out tigers
Associated Press
February 15, 2009

Source: AJC.COM




Phnom Penh, Cambodia —- Maggie the German wirehaired pointer has arrived in Cambodia with an unusual task —- sniffing out tiger droppings in one of Cambodia’s largest nature reserves.

The unorthodox move to employ a dog trained in Russia to search for signs of the big cats is part of a campaign to boost a tiger population in Asia that has plummeted to as few as 5,000 from 100,000 a century ago.

Starting this week, the salt-and-pepper dog will begin scouring the undergrowth and sniffing for tiger scent on trees in an area of northeastern Cambodia.

It is unclear how many tigers are even left in Cambodia, where —- as in much of Asia —- poaching and habitat encroachment are blamed for decimating the population.

The turn to dogs comes after camera traps and field surveys failed to find the big cats last year. The last sign of a tiger was in 2007, when a paw print was spotted in the park.

“We think this is the best method when we have a large area and not that many tigers,” said Hannah O’Kelly, a wildlife monitoring adviser for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

WCS and the wild cat conservation group Panthera, also based in New York, are spending about $30,000 to bring Maggie and a second dog from Russia to Seima later this year.

The effort to find tiger droppings is part of a worldwide campaign by conservationists to mine animal droppings for genetic information that can save endangered species.

Elephant dung, for example, was used two years ago to calculate the population of pachyderms in Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park.

Now, researchers are hoping the tiger scat will help determine the existence of tigers in Seima along with their sex, age and whether any are pregnant or even under threat.

“As we gain the technology to extract things from scat like DNA and hormones, all of a sudden scat becomes a gold mine of information,” said Linda Kerley, a WCS consultant who trained the dogs in Russia.

The fear, O’Kelly said, is that the dogs don’t find any droppings.

“If we cover the whole area and we don’t find any tiger scat, then we can be reasonably confident there are no tigers,” O’Kelly said. “That would be very disappointing and I hope that doesn’t happen.”



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Arent it cool? even the latest tech could not replace the nose of dogs.. :D


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