Conservationists Unleash Rodent Detection Dogs

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Conservationists unleash rodent detection dogs
12th April 2018

By Karen Pickwick
 
 
Three small dogs are at the centre of the final phase of the world’s largest project to eradicate invasive species.
 
Terriers Wai, Will and Ahu have joined a team of 16 humans conducting a monitoring survey of the British Overseas Territory of the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia for signs of rodents. The team has embarked on what is hopefully the final phase of an ambitious £7.5m conservation project to restore the island’s native bird populations.
 
The terriers are specially trained to detect rodents, invasive predators that arrived on South Georgia as stowaways on sealing and whaling vessels from the 18th century onwards. As the native wildlife evolved in the absence of rats and mice, the introduced rodent population wreaked havoc on the island’s ground-nesting and burrowing birds, in particular threatening the existence of two endemic species; the South Georgia pipit and South Georgia pintail. 
 
Scottish-based charity SGHT started the first phase of baiting of the Habitat Restoration Project – to date the world’s largest project to eradicate invasive species – in 2011, in a bid to reverse two centuries of human-induced damage to the island’s wildlife and allow millions of birds to flourish and reclaim their ancestral home.
 
Since the last extensive phase of baiting work in 2015, no sign of rodents has been detected, and many bird species are already showing signs of recovery, but a comprehensive survey was required before the island could officially be declared rodent-free.