Otways Conservation Dogs find evidence of endangered tiger quoll in Great Otway National Park

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Ted is a member of the Otways Conservation Dogs, a team on a special mission to help protect the endangered Tiger Quoll from extinction. This week the former rescue dog made a very important discovery when he detected a wild quoll scat in the Cumberland Valley of the Great Otway National Park.

Doug Gimesy_Ted

Otways Conservation Dog, Ted. Photo: Doug Gimesy

The Otways Conservation Dogs was initiated by the Conservation Ecology Centre after the organisation rediscovered Tiger Quolls in the Otways in 2012. 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 (droppings) of the endangered species. These scats have the potential to provide vital information to ecologists, significantly assisting conservation efforts.

Finding this evidence of tiger quolls presence is very challenging, however. Since the species’ rediscovery only four confirmations have been made and this evidence has been discovered far and wide across the region.

Conservation & Research Manager, Dr Jack Pascoe, said “The fact that the evidence collected over the last few years is so wide spread is encouraging as it suggests this is not just one or two individuals but a small population.

“However, sightings of quolls are rare, confirmed evidence is scarce and the species’ future is precarious. 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 needs good 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. The Otways Conservation Dogs program is a truly inspiring example of partnership in action.”

Luke Edwards_wild tiger quoll scat in GONP

Wild tiger quoll scat detected in the Great Otway National Park. Photo: Luke Edwards

Luke Edwards of Canidae Development has instructed the Otways Conservation Dogs since the program’s inception. He says “Dogs make an incredible contribution to our society; they can help us gather information in ways which we could never manage without them.

“Effective conservation detection dogs must 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. The dogs are highly trained and must pass rigorous assessments before they are deployed to work under Research Permits in the National Park.”

© Annette Ruzicka_Tiger Quoll

Tiger quoll. Photo: Annette Ruzicka

What is most surprising about this story is that its hero was once a lost dog. Found wandering the streets of Geelong in very poor condition in 2013, he was rescued by the Geelong Animal Welfare Society and then adopted into a new life at Cape Otway by Lizzie Corke and Shayne Neal, founders of the Conservation Ecology Centre. He was named Ted and since then has become a much loved member of the family and, clearly, an outstanding detection dog.

Jack Pascoe says “Ted loves his life and his job – he works tirelessly in difficult terrain and is absolutely dedicated to the search – 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.”

We’ll all be having a Prickly Moses Spotted Ale to celebrate!

Learn more about the Otways Conservation Dogs.

Luke Edwards_Ted at work in the GONP

Lizzie and Ted on deployment in the Great Otway National Park. Photo: Luke Edwards

Learn more about the Endangered Species Surveillance Network Program.