Communicating conservation with detection dogs

Communicating conservation with detection dogs

Author: Ellen Rykers – University of Otago, New Zealand

Nancy Longnecker – University of Otago

Biodiversity decline in New Zealand is an underreported issue. More than 80% of the native birds are facing extinction, and 94% of the land is home to introduced mammalian predators. Public support and awareness is essential to effectively address these issues. Thus, there is a need to develop novel tools for enhancing public awareness and attracting new audiences to conservation.

One method widely used to engage the public with conservation is the adoption of a charismatic flagship species, with the most famous example being the World Wildlife Fund’s panda. In New Zealand, there is the kiwi – but many of the other threatened native species are neither recognised nor encountered by the general public.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation ‘employs’ around 80 dogs as part of its Conservation Dogs Programme. Conservation dogs are trained to sniff out either endangered species (e.g. kiwi, whio) or introduced pests (e.g. rats, stoats), thereby assisting with species monitoring and safeguarding pest-free sanctuaries. Could ‘cute and cuddly’ dogs function as a conservation flagship, acting as a ‘hook’ to engage more amongst the New Zealand public with conservation?

This poster will share an excerpt of an article about conservation dogs written as the creative component of a MSciComm and presents research investigating the influence of detection dogs on conservation communication, based on results from an online questionnaire. This exploration of the New Zealand Conservation Dogs Programme acts as a case study for conservation marketing and using flagship species to communicate science.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices