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Koala-detecting dogs sniff out flaws in Australia’s threatened species protection

Detection dogs have found vulnerable koalas in places developers assumed they wouldn’t live. This highlights the flaws of environmental protection.
As we discussed in the video, detection dogs can be used as a more accurate and efficient tool for conservation than many of the standard methods. This article provides a clear example of the difference this can make in practice. All new infrastructure projects require an environmental impact assessment to ensure that threatened and endangered species are not negatively impacted. If likely impacts are identified, the project will be given conditions such as impacts mitigation or offsets. For this process to be effective, wildlife surveys must be accurate. Because budgets are limited, current guidelines recommend that surveys take place where wildlife is most likely to be found. Unfortunately, assumptions like this can lead us to underestimate wildlife habitat – and the potential impacts of infrastructure developments. For example, in a highly human impacted landscape, wild animals might be persisting in sub optimal habitats or even places classified as not habitat – this is because their choice is limited by how extensively humans have modified the landscape. To test this, we used our detection dogs to identify the presence of koalas across a proposed development site. Using an unbiased survey methodology (i.e. targeting both the areas classified as habitat and non habitat), our detection dogs identified koalas in unexpected areas, revealing that the habitat occupied was much larger than initially believed. These unbiased surveys cover more ground, and therefore would cost more, than targeted ones – this is where having an efficient survey method like detection dog come to play. This example also highlights the importance of accuracy in wildlife surveys, as they inform management decisions with impact in the real world.

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Life on Land: Ecology, Evolution, Challenges, and Solutions

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