Fighting Extinction Wildlife Detection Dog Squad

These dogs are helping to protect some of Australia’s most threatened species.

Zoos Victoria’s Wildlife Detection Dog Program, based at Healesville Sanctuary, trains dogs to assist threatened species biologists to monitor some of Victoria’s most threatened and endangered species, enhancing and complementing current survey methods.

By using their highly sensitive sense of smell, dogs can detect species that are challenging to locate. Our dog squad works with mammal, reptile, amphibian and fungus species.


Zoos Victoria’s detection dog-handler teams locate both live animals and traces, such as scats. Upon locating their target, the dogs alert by sitting and pointing their nose in the direction of the animal or sample. The dogs are trained to search steadily and alert to their target at a distance which ensures the animals are not disturbed.

The Dog Squad focusses on the relationship between humans and dogs forged over thousands of years, and applies the latest scientific advances in animal training, husbandry and welfare.

Our specially selected dogs and their handlers go through extensive training to ensure they are safe and effective when searching in the field and share a strong dog-handler bond.

Meet the squad

Detection Dog Moss

Breed: Labrador Retriever

Birthday: January 2019

Joined the program: February 2020

Target species: Broad-toothed rat, Platypus and Tasmanian Devil (oestrus research)

Special qualities: Moss is our team’s naughtiest-good boy. He is always getting into mischief. He is confident in all environments and loves exploring the world with his nose. Moss loves food (bananas are his favourite) and belly rubs from his people.

Detection Dog Kip

Breed: Kelpie-cross

Birthday: February 2015

Joined the program: July 2019

Target species: Baw Baw frog, Platypus, Tasmanian devil (oestrus research), and Victorian Grassland Earless Dragon

Special qualities: Kip is our most experienced detection dog. He is highly motivated and doesn’t like sitting still for long unless it is a cuddle on the couch at the end of the day. Kip loves toys. His favourite is a squeaky tennis ball.

Detection Dog Finn

Breed: Border Collie

Birthday: May 2020

Joined the program: May 2021

Target species: All frogs! Finn is a frog generalist, and he works on projects for the Baw Baw Frog and other fighting extinction frog species.

Special qualities: Finn is incredibly energetic and motivated. He loves all toys, going on adventures and will give anything a shot, especially if a tennis ball is involved. After he has burned off some energy, he loves a snuggle with his people, but is quickly ready for more adventures!

Detection Dog Daisy

Breed: Lagotto Romagnolo

Birthday: March 2017

Joined the program: May 2021

Target species: Victorian Grassland Earless Dragon and Tasmanian devil (oestrus research)

Special qualities: Don’t let Daisy’s size fool you, she is a whole lot of dog in a tiny body! Daisy loves food and cuddles above all else and moves delicately through her search environment, which is critical in sensitive habitats.

Detection Dog Sugar

Breed: German Shorthaired Pointer cross Springer Spaniel

Birthday: September 2020

Joined the program: April 2023

Target species: Victorian Grassland Earless Dragon

Special qualities: Whilst Sugar is as sweet as her name suggests, she is fearless in moving through all environments, especially when following her nose. Sugar loves food, soft tug toys and cuddles from her people.

Program Contacts

Dr La Toya Jamieson
Wildlife Detection Dog Officer

Naomi Hodgens
Wildlife Detection Dog Officer

Chris Hartnett
Threatened Species Program Coordinator

Dr Nick Rutter
Wildlife Detection Dog Officer

Thank you to our partners and program contributors

  • Australasian Conservation Dog Network
  • Australian Government National Environmental Science Program
  • Deakin University Applied Ecology and Conservations Research Group
  • Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
  • La Trobe University Agri Bio Lab
  • La Trobe University Anthrozoology Research Group Dog Lab
  • La Trobe University Wildlife Endocrinology Lab
  • Melbourne Water
  • Michael Amor – Evolutionary Geneticist and Bioinformatics
  • Parks Victoria
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
  • Save the Tasmanian Devil Program
  • Wild Research Pty Ltd
  • Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd
  • Bunnings Warehouse
Generous philanthropic donors support this program.