How poo-sniffing dogs can help save Coast koalas
UNIVERSITY of the Sunshine Coast researchers have partnered with Sunshine Coast Council to better understand the region's koala populations and habitats.
The three-year research partnership also examines koala health and genetic diversity in the region by using specially-trained dogs to detect koala droppings.
USC research fellow Dr Romane Cristescu said the team of five detection dogs were trained to look for koala droppings because it was easier to find than the "cryptic" animals.
"What we can do from those droppings is extract the DNA from the koala," Dr Cristescu said. "We also can look at disease that koala might carry."
Dr Cristescu said the methodology allowed researchers to monitor koalas in a "non-invasive" way.
"We don't have to catch koalas to study their health, which allows us to cover a much bigger area and be more efficient in our data collection," she said.
The data collected helps council determine which areas need to be managed to protect koala populations.
Baxter's "obsession" with his tennis ball helped researchers train him to find a scent in exchange for a reward.
"All our dogs are what we call 'ball-obsessed', and basically they want to play all day," Dr Cristescu said.
"That's great for us because when we want to do some research, they want to play."