More than 20 dogs used by the Department of Conservation and their handlers have gone back to school last week.
The teams are vital components in conservation work and, appropriately, gathered on Sunday for a training week at the Maungatautari – the country’s biggest inland fenced predator free zone.
Conservation Dog handlers generally work in remote areas and do not often have the opportunity for teamwork and collaborative learning.
The areas of expertise these conservation dogs have is in pest detection, so while at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari they have been checking for the presence of rodents, mustelids, cats, Argentine ants, and plague skinks.
While Maungatautari claims to be predator-free, it must maintain a high level of vigilance.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari Operations Team Leader James Matthews says, “of course our pest surveillance and prevention is intensive, but we don’t know what we don’t know. While we are confident that our systems in pest management are effective, we are always striving to do better, and to know more”.
Between July and September three ship rats were trapped on the northern fence line.
The week also provides a great opportunity for James and his new aspiring conservation dog, Rua, to test his progress.
Rua is 10 months old, and James hopes he will become a certified Conservation Dog. That means he will be able to provide rodent detection services to Maungatautari, as well as lending a hand to other conservation projects.
The sanctuary is encompassed by a 47km long predator free fence.