No Monkey Business: Rescue Dogs Used to Sniff Out Rare Gorillas

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Dogs are being rescued from shelters and getting the chance to travel to far-flung places to help aide in the search for the elusive Cross River gorilla.

This opportunity is part of experiment by U.S. and German researchers, looking for a better method for tracking down one of the rarest gorillas on earth, according to Scientific American. The species lays low in dense forests in an area of approximately 12,0000 square kilometers in the hills and mountains of the Cameron-Nigeria border. Because of deforestation, hunters and population fragmentation, the gorillas are fearful of humans – making it difficult for researchers to track the population of the Cross River gorilla. This is where dogs are coming into play.

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Image via Julie Langford
Image via Julie Langford

Researchers are looking for alternative techniques and are experimenting with canines to track the gorillas, or more specifically, the gorillas’ poop.

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To find the perfect candidates, researchers turned to shelters and sought out a particular personality: a dog that wouldn’t make a great pet. The team wanted a high energy, highly-motivated dog that has an obsessive nature.

Image via Working Dogs for Conservation
Image via Working Dogs for Conservation

These dogs also have to have high focus and a desire to work with a handler, as well as being able to focus while working, ignoring all the distractions that would normally tempt a dog to explore,” team member Megan Parker from Working Dogs for Conservation in Montana told Scientific American.

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Image via Working Dogs for Conservation

After going through extensive training, the dogs along with their trainers were) went against just a team of humans. The dog team ended up coming out on top: finding 43 fresh samples and 288 old samples, compared to other team’s finding of 75 fresh and zero old, the outlet reports.

By providing these samples, scientists are able to determine population, movement, relations and new group formation.

Initially, the team could only afford to send over three dogs but because the proof of concept was a success, the option of using dogs is attractive.

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