A TEAM of 10 Colac district volunteers and their pet dogs are ready to do their part to conserve the endangered tiger quoll.
But their tiger quoll conservation program needs $40,000 to continue the dogs’ training and support genetic analysis of any droppings the dogs find.
Cape Otway’s Conservation Ecology Centre has four trained dogs to search for quoll droppings in the Otways and another six dogs are waiting to complete the final stages of training.
The centre’s breeding program produced four tiger quolls in 2012, which provide droppings for the dogs’ training.
CEC chief Lizzie Corke said the centre used the dogs’ finely tuned noses to sniff out the endangered marsupial’s droppings in the Otway Ranges, and help researchers protect the species before it was too late.
“In the past, finding the endangered marsupials has been extremely hard, but this innovative response to train domestic dogs to use their keen noses to help us, shows great promise,” Ms Corke said.
“We’re hoping to deploy them in May; part of the reason we’re doing the fundraising appeal now is to get them out and working,” she said.
Ms Corke said the project had attracted volunteers and their dogs from across the region, from Port Campbell to Geelong.
“We have a big team which is really helpful for covering large areas,” she said.
Dog handler and instructor Luke Edwards of Canidae Development said the difficulty in training the dogs depended on their experience and traits.
“The use of detection dogs in conservation is growing around the world as dogs demonstrate how efficient and effective they are at locating things that are difficult to find, in this case tiger quoll scat,” Mr Edwards said.
“In this project the dogs are trained to perform ‘passive alerts’, ensuring minimal impact on wildlife in the environmentally sensitive areas in which the volunteer teams will be working.”
Ms Corke said the centre had raised $8000 of its $40,000 to date, and the conservationists would make a decision early next month on whether the program could go ahead.