Conservation detection dog is better than human searcher in finding bilby (Macrotis lagotis) scats

Scott A. Thompson, Graham G. Thompson, Philip C. Withers, Emma M. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Conservation detection dogs have been widely used for finding scats, retreat sites and specific plant and animal species for a variety of purposes, including monitoring, management, biosecurity and eradication programs. Their cost-effectiveness appears well established in finding cryptic and rare animals, yet they are not included in the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions' published search protocol for bilbies. In this study a human searcher located six of 90 scats (6.7%) compared to the conservation detection dog that located 89 of 90 bilby scats (98.9%). The dog's time to locate the first scat in a 25m x 25m site with a ground cover of leaves, sticks and grasses was 72.8 sec (± se 8.10, n = 60) and, when a second scat was present, the mean time to locate the second scat was 186.5 sec (± se 186.517, n = 29). We strongly recommend that conservation detection dogs are incorporated into the State government's search protocol for bilbies, as they are more accurate and faster than human searchers, and provide development proponents with greater confidence in searches undertaken as part of an environmental impact assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-93
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Zoologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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