Sniffing out the skinks! - An initiative for our four-legged employee

In an initiative to develop a flexible, rapid, cost effective and accurate methodology for a native skink presence survey at 4Sight, we’ve turned to our four-legged employees!

It’s well known that dogs have a sense of smell far superior to our own - a human has approximately 5 million scent glands, in comparison to dogs which (depending on breed) can have anywhere from 125 million to 300 million.

The use of canine super-sniffers is not a new concept in the realm of conservation – in fact New Zealand is recognised as one of the pioneering countries in the development of dog training to support species recovery objectives. 4Sight is continually looking to develop practical solutions to help us live, work and thrive in our environment and accordingly, is supporting the training of a native skink detection dog, using one of our most widespread species – copper skink – as a proxy for native skinks. Whilst dogs have been trained to detect the presence of the invasive plague skinks, and others can detect native geckos; this initiative is (as far as we know) the first of its kind in New Zealand. Where human error and seasonal conditions can impact detection accuracy, a well-trained dog can potentially indicate presence of native skinks within minutes – and in a far less invasive manner.

Enter Molly – 4Sight’s resident chocolate labrador. With a drive to please and enthusiasm to boot, she’s got the goods to make a top notch conservation dog. Check in regularly, as we’ll update her progress on this blog, with regular posts by Molly’s handler Rachel throughout the training and assessment process. Watch this space!