AN OTWAYS Conservation Dog has sniffed out a rare wild quoll scat, only the fourth confirmation of the animals’ existence in the Otways this century.
Ted, a member of the Otways Conservation Dogs based at Cape Otway’s Conservation Ecology Centre and former rescue dog, made the discovery in the Cumberland Valley in the Great Otway National Park.
The program involves a team of community volunteers working with their own dogs across a wide range of breeds, trained to work with minimal environmental impact to detect scats, or droppings, of the endangered species.
The scats have the potential to provide vital information to ecologists, significantly assisting conservation efforts.
Since the species’ rediscovery, only four confirmations have been made and this evidence has been discovered far and wide across the region.
Conservation and research manager Dr Jack Pascoe said the fact that evidence collected over the past three years was so widespread was encouraging because it suggested there was a small population, not just one or two individuals.
“However, sightings of quolls are rare, confirmed evidence is scarce and the species’ future is precarious,” Dr Pascoe said.
“We need to gather data as quickly as possible to understand where quolls are surviving and how viable their population is.
“This information is crucial for effectively managing the Otways for their conservation.”
Parks Victoria ranger Katrina Lovett said Parks Victoria needed data to plan and manage for species preservation and habitat management in parks.
“Partnering with community organisations and citizen science volunteers can really assist in this,” Ms Lovett said.
“The Otways Conservation Dogs program is a truly inspiring example of partnership in action.”
Luke Edwards of Canidae Development, who has instructed the Otways Conservation Dogs since the program’s inception, said effective conservation detection dogs had to have a wide range of skills.
“They must be fit enough to work long days in challenging environments, be confident to think and problem solve independently, and they need to be able to communicate effectively with their handlers,” Mr Edwards said.
“The dogs are highly trained and must pass rigorous assessments before they are deployed to work under Research Permits in the National Park.”
Dr Pascoe said Ted, who had been a lost dog the centre had rescued, “loves his life and his job”.
“He knows he has a very important job and our ecologists feel very privileged to work alongside him and the rest of the Otways Conservation Dogs teams.”