Cost-effective scat-detection dogs: unleashing a powerful new tool for international mammalian conservation biology

Orkin, Joseph D., Yang, Yuming, Yang, Chunyan, Yu, Douglas W. and Jiang, Xuelong (2016) Cost-effective scat-detection dogs: unleashing a powerful new tool for international mammalian conservation biology. Scientific Reports, 6. ISSN 2045-2322

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Recently, detection dogs have been utilized to collect fecal samples from cryptic and rare mammals. Despite the great promise of this technique for conservation biology, its broader application has been limited by the high cost (tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and logistical challenges of employing a scat-detection dog team while conducting international, collaborative research. Through an international collaboration of primatologists and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, we trained and used a detection dog to find scat from three species of unhabituated, free-ranging primates, for less than $3,000. We collected 137 non-human primate fecal samples that we confirmed by sequencing taxonomically informative genetic markers. Our detection dog team had a 92% accuracy rate, significantly outperforming our human-only team. Our results demonstrate that detection dogs can locate fecal samples from unhabituated primates with variable diets, locomotion, and grouping patterns, despite challenging field conditions. We provide a model for in-country training, while also building local capacity for conservation and genetic monitoring. Unlike previous efforts, our approach will allow for the wide adoption of scat-detection dogs in international conservation biology.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit
Uncontrolled Keywords: animal behaviour,conservation biology,ecological genetics
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Organisms and the Environment
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Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2016 09:00
Last Modified: 12 May 2023 00:21
DOI: 10.1038/srep34758


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