COLAC district conservationists hope a dog could be the key to saving Australia’s tiger quoll population.
Employees of the Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology have been busy training two-year-old Badger, the tiger quoll detection dog, to locate scats from the endangered tiger quoll population.
Program leader Kellie Leigh is training Badger, an Australian shepherd, with the aid of three tiger quolls kept on site in a custom-built sanctuary named the “Qualloseum”.
Staff feed the quolls a varied diet and the quolls, each of which is about 12 months old, provide fresh scats for Badger’s training program.
“Three down the back are providing poo to train badger with,” Ms Leigh said.
“We’re training him to track down scats, so if he can find like a latrine site then we can sample it, take DNA from all the poo and figure out how many quolls are using that latrine site, what sex they are,” she said.
“If we do find poo we obviously know they’re around, then we can trap them and collar them and find out what habitats they’re using, what they’re feeding off and what the threats are and the causes of decline.”
[SlideDeck id=’16110′ width=’65%’ height=’300px’]
Ms Leigh said tiger quoll numbers in the Otways were so low that environmental authorities, who use remote cameras to survey the animals, had not detected the marsupial predator for “about seven years”.
“It means the population has declined dramatically and those sorts of survey techniques are less reliable,” Ms Leigh said.
But she said a recent “fairly reliable sighting” on private land at Johanna had reaffirmed the need to assess the remaining population.
The centre also uses remote cameras, triggered by motion and heat, to look for tiger quolls.