Conservation Canines: Dogs Helping Endangered Animals

Did you know you don’t have to be human to be an environmentalist?  Specially-trained dogs from the group Conservation Canines have been assisting scientists protect endangered species since 1997.

With their highly sophisticated sense of smell paired with their insatiable urge to play (their reward at the end of the day), dogs can track scat, or animal droppings, from miles away.  Once located, the scientists can analyze the scat for genetic, physiological, and dietary information.  This provides clues to the animal’s behavior and environment which helps conservationists determine the best way to protect it.

The dogs, which are adopted from animal shelters and then trained by the crew at Conservation Canines, track scat from a variety of endangered animals. The list includes tigers, orcas, fishers, spotted owls, bears, wolves, caribou, giant armadillos, giant anteaters, pumas, jaguars, and Pacific pocket mice.

Watch a video below about Tucker, a black labrador mix who specializes in tracking orca scat. This is a tricky task because he must catch the scent over open water, the scat can move around and/or sink in the water, and he must provide signals to his human coworkers so they can steer the boat in the correct direction.

To learn more, see:

Conservation Canines website
NY Times

Rare Sumatran Rhino Calf Born

On June 23, Ratu, a rare Sumatran rhino living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, gave birth to a healthy male calf who weighs between 60 and 70 pounds.

“We are overjoyed that Ratu delivered a healthy calf and are cautiously optimistic that the calf will continue to thrive,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation. “The little guy is absolutely adorable, and none of us has been able to stop smiling since the moment we were sure he was alive and healthy. We have been waiting for this moment since the sanctuary was built in 1998. The International Rhino Foundation is honored to play an important role in protecting rhinos. We are hopeful the Sumatran rhino population will thrive once again.”

Ratu had miscarried two calves prior to this pregnancy, but this time, sanctuary staff gave her a hormone supplement that prevented her from miscarrying again. (Read all our posts about Ratu here.)

With fewer than 200 Sumatran rhinos living in Indonesia and Malaysia, this birth is a significant step in preserving the population. They face threats such as continuing loss of their tropical forest habitat and hunting.

For more information, see the International Rhino Foundation website.

Snapping Turtle Crittercam

Greg Marshall, inventor of the Crittercam (a camera that attaches to animals to record their activity from their perspective) came to Connecticut to work with Mystic Aquarium turtle expert Dr. Tobias Landberg.  Together they figured out a safe and secure method to attach the Crittercam to a snapping turtle’s shell.  They released the turtle into the wild and will be able to learn about its habits and movements in the water.

The Mystic Aquarium has used the Crittercam before on beluga whales.

We Bought a Zoo DVD and Book Giveaway

We Bought a Zoo DVD and BookAnimal Fact Guide is giving away two prize packs containing the DVD, We Bought a Zoo, and the novel it was based on!

The story follows Benjamin Mee (played by Matt Damon), a Los Angeles newspaper columnist and adventure writer who, as a single father, faces the challenges of raising his two young children.

Hoping that a fresh start and a new life will restore their family spirit, Mee quits his job and buys an old rural house outside the city with a unique bonus feature: a zoo named the Rosemoor Animal Park, where dozens of animals reside under the care of head zookeeper Kelly Foster (played by Scarlett Johansson) and her dedicated team.

With no experience, limited time and a shoestring budget, Mee sets out with the support of his family and the local community to reopen the zoo. Now, Benjamin is no longer reporting an adventure story; he’s living it in his own backyard.

Scene from We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon

Scene from We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon

For a chance to win one of two DVD/book bundles, comment below by April 2, 2012, 11:59pm EST with the answer to this question:

If you bought a zoo, which animal would you most like to have in it and why?

Be sure to include your email address, so we can contact the winners for their mailing address. Note: This contest is open to people in the U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. boxes.

Amur Tiger Cubs at Toledo Zoo

Two Amur (or Siberian) tiger cubs and mother Marta went on display at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio. The cubs were born on September 26, 2011.

Amur tigers are the largest subspecies of tiger, averaging  about 3.3 m (11 ft.) in length, with a tail measuring 1 m (3 ft.). Adult male tigers can weigh up to 320 kg (700 lb.), while female tigers are significantly smaller, weighing up to 180 kg (400 lb.).

To learn more about Amur tigers, see Animal Fact Guide’s article Siberian Tiger.

To learn more about the Amur tiger cubs, see NorthwestOhio.com.

Dog Shows on Nat Geo WILD

Cesar Milan and bulldog

Cesar stands alongside Hugo with a picturesque California palm tree backdrop. Hugo, an English Bulldog, has aggressive tendencies that Cesar hope to help. (Photo by: MPH - Emery/Sumner Joint Ventures)

Nat Geo WILD has two shows all about dogs premiering on January 7th.

The Dog Whisperer follows Cesar Milan as he tries to neutralize tense situations between dogs. In the first episode (starting at 8pm ET/PT), two Jack Russell terriers named Ruby and Jinx have lived together for years but have begun fighting aggressively every time they are anywhere near each other. In the second episode (starting at 9pm ET/PT), Cesar travels to Santa Barbara to meet Hugo, a 3-year-old bulldog with a major mean streak.

Watch a clip below of Hugo the bulldog after Cesar has worked with him.


Philly Undercover
is a new six-part series in which the PSPCA’s undercover police team works to eliminate dogfighting and protect all animals from abuse and neglect. In a sneak preview on January 7 at 10pm ET/PT, a covert surveillance operation with the PSPCA undercover team leads to one of the biggest dogfighting busts in Philadelphia’s history — 14 suspects are arrested, and several horribly neglected, abused and injured dogs are rescued. In the second episode on Monday, January 9 at 9pm ET/PT (the show’s regular night and time), the team rescues 41 dogs from five properties across Philadelphia.

Rare White Kiwi Hatched in New Zealand Sanctuary

The Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in New Zealand welcomed a rare baby bird on Sunday.  The white kiwi chick, named Mauriora – meaning “sustained life” in Maori -  is the second of its kind to be born in captivity.  The first white kiwi born in captivity hatched in May and is name Manukura.

The two white kiwis are North Island brown kiwi who carry a rare white gene. They are not albinos.