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Fighting Extinction Detection Dog Program

Zoos Victoria established the Fighting Extinction Detection Dog Program to trial the effectiveness of dogs to assist in field surveys of threatened species such as the Baw Baw Frog and Plains-wanderer.

This program is a new approach in threatened species monitoring and sits alongside the Guardian Dog Program. Together, the Detection Dogs and Guardian Dogs make up the Zoos Victoria Fighting Extinction Dog Squad.

Meet the boys


An update from the field

How Do Detection Dogs Help Fight Wildlife Extinction?

Depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell is thought to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times better than humans. Detection Dogs use their superior sense of smell to help locate and monitor threatened species that may be difficult to find using our sight or hearing alone.

The dogs can be trained to track the scent of specific animals. This highly effective and non-invasive approach to detection and monitoring has been recognised as a valuable technique to provide evidence of threatened species and their population distribution.

Dogs can also cover a large area much quicker than humans and can work in challenging environments and difficult terrain.  As a result, Detection Dogs may prove in many cases to be more efficient and accurate than alternative surveying methods.

Detection Dog Training

The dogs are specially trained to find a specific odour using samples from target species sourced from animals in the Zoos Victoria collection. This can include feathers, skin swabs, scats, or eggs.  

When they locate live animals or traces, the dogs alert their handler by gently dropping down and touching their nose to the ground by the nest, burrow or scat without disturbing it. In the case of the Baw Baw Frog, dogs will alert next to the opening of a burrow that can extend deep under the ground.

Thanks to our Partners

  • Baw Baw Frog Recovery Team
  • Canidae Development
  • Elanus Consulting