Piri the terrier has a unique but highly important occupation. As part of New Zealand’s Conservation Dog Program, she helps guard many of the island country’s endemic animals from extinction. By sniffing out carnivorous pests that might otherwise consume endangered wildlife, Piri and her canine colleagues do their part to save irreplaceable animal species. To safeguard animals found nowhere else in the world such as the stout little kiwi and the flightless parrot called the kakapo, New Zealand has established approximately 100 pest-free island sanctuaries. The only way to ensure the safety of the endangered species is to keep rats, mice, cats, weasels and other predators off the islands. That’s where conservation dogs like Piri come in.
Piri and her brother Pai specialize in sniffing out rats and mice on ships and cargo heading for the islands or on the islands themselves. They are also alert for other predators such as ferrets, cats, stoats and Argentine ants. Their father, Jak, preceded them in aiding the New Zealand government in rat detection for many years. Terriers, which were originally bred to hunt small animals, are especially effective in finding pests. Piri and Pai are local celebrities, having their own Facebook page with over 5,000 followers.
Besides ratters like Piri and Pai, the Conservation Dog Program has canine investigators that perform other conservation tasks. For instance, some dogs specialize in detecting wild cats. Others are trained to locate kiwis and other endangered animals. Although dogs have been assisting the New Zealand conservation effort since the 1950s, it was in 1998 that the Conservation Dog Program was officially initiated. As of 2016, the program uses over 60 dogs. New Zealand’s entire Conservation Dog Program is based upon the extraordinary sense of smell that canines have. Read this article about other amazing sniffing abilities of dogs.
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