Sniffer dog employed to hunt for tigers
A Russian sniffer dog with a sensitive smell for tiger droppings has been flown to Cambodia to help conservationists discover whether there are any of the endangered species left in one of the country's biggest national parks.
By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:06AM GMT 14 Feb 2009
Camera traps and field surveys have failed to turn up any trace of tigers in the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in north eastern Cambodia since a paw print was spotted in 2007.
Starting next week Maggie, a wire-haired German pointer trained to find tigers in Russia's far east, will begin work in the 1,158 square mile park sniffing trees and undergrowth for the droppings of any tigers that might remain.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and the wildcat conservation group Panthera are spending about £20,000 to bring Maggie to Cambodia along with a second dog which will arrive later in the year. It is part of a 10 year plan aimed at increasing the population of the giant cats in south east and east Asia by 50 per cent.
The use of dogs in studying big cat populations by searching for droppings was pioneered in Russia and has been tried in South America and Africa but this is a first for Asia.
No-one knows how many tigers are left in Cambodia. A century ago there were around 100,000 across Asia but due to hunting and habitat loss the number has now dwindled to around 5,000 – many of them in India.
The use of dung – which contains DNA - in studying wild animal populations is increasing, especially in habitats such as forests which make the creatures difficult to count.
Two years ago biologists used dung to count the elephants in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park.