Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dogs and Goats: Conservation Allies

It's no secret that humans are seriously lacking in our sense of smell, but not so our best friends. Anyone who has seen their dog checking out the backyard knows that the canine scenting capabilities can tell a lot about who--or what--has been in the area.

The dog's nose has been put to good use in locating illegal agriculture products and drugs at the border, finding missing persons and hunting all sorts of creatures. Now a collaborative effort including The Nature Conservancy of Oregon has a dog sniffing out rare plants.
Meet Rogue, a Belgian sheepdog that is finding the endangered Kincaid lupine by smell. This plant is found over rough terrain, so it's difficult for human eyes to locate. The dogs have a remarkable ability to find rare plants in a field of many other species, with very low error rates. The success of this project suggests that dogs may have many other uses for conservationists. Read Rogue's story by Jen Newlin Bell of The Nature Conservancy of Oregon.
Dogs aren't the only domestic animal being put to use for the cause of conservation. The Nature Conservancy of Washington is utilizing goats to munch through a horrible tangle of invasive Himalayan blackberry. The thorns and brambles of this plant crowds out other native plants, but it's no problem for the goats. Their legendary eating ability is based on fact; goats munch even this noxious plant to the ground. Learn more about the goats, and watch a video of them at work. --Matt Miller

Dog photos by Jen Newlin Bell/TNC; goat photo by Jocelyn Ellis/TNC.

No comments: