NESP Resilient Landscapes Hub is training detection dogs to sniff out rare dragons

25 June 2023

Funded by the Australian Government under the National Environmental Science Program’s Resilient Landscapes Hub, our new research project is harnessing dogs’ exceptional sense of smell to find the newly rediscovered Victorian grassland earless dragon.

In an astonishing rediscovery, the dragon – a critically endangered and cryptic lizard that was presumed to be extinct – was recently found in grasslands in Victoria’s west after more than 50 years.

To ensure the conservation of this highly imperilled lizard, we need new methods to find any remaining populations in the grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain.

Victorian grassland earless dragon
The Victorian grassland earless dragon was recently rediscovered after more than 50 years. Photo: Peter Robertson, Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd.

Enter the Zoos Victoria Wildlife Detection Dog Squad. Specialist dog trainers and wildlife ecologists are training dogs on the lizard’s scent to see if the super-sniffing canines are successful in finding more populations of the dragon.

If they are, this could be a game-changer in the conservation of this and other imperilled Australian lizards and snakes.

This research is being co-led by Zoos Victoria’s Threatened Species General Manager Garry Peterson and Threatened Species Program Coordinator Chris Hartnett.

A panel showing 4 dogs all wearing vests identifying them as Zoos Victoria Wildlife Detection Dogs.
Zoos Victoria Wildlife Detection Dogs (clockwise from top left) Finn, Kip, Moss and Daisy. Photos: Zoos Victoria.

Researchers involved

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