Cost-effective scat-detection dogs: unleashing a powerful new tool for international mammalian conservation biology

Joseph D. Orkin, Yuming Yang, Chunyan Yang, Douglas W. Yu, Xuelong Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Recently, detection dogs have been utilized to collect fecal samples from cryptic and rare mammals. Despite the great promise of this technique for conservation biology, its broader application has been limited by the high cost (tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and logistical challenges of employing a scat-detection dog team while conducting international, collaborative research. Through an international collaboration of primatologists and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, we trained and used a detection dog to find scat from three species of unhabituated, free-ranging primates, for less than $3,000. We collected 137 non-human primate fecal samples that we confirmed by sequencing taxonomically informative genetic markers. Our detection dog team had a 92% accuracy rate, significantly outperforming our human-only team. Our results demonstrate that detection dogs can locate fecal samples from unhabituated primates with variable diets, locomotion, and grouping patterns, despite challenging field conditions. We provide a model for in-country training, while also building local capacity for conservation and genetic monitoring. Unlike previous efforts, our approach will allow for the wide adoption of scat-detection dogs in international conservation biology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number34758
JournalScientific Reports
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • Animal behaviour
  • Conservation biology
  • Ecological genetics

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