A day in the life -- today's Kuvaszok


Helpful dogs of many breeds - Terriers near Antarctica

Remember the Maremmas who protect penguins from foxes in Australia?

There are no Kuvasz or LGDs in this article, but it's about a conservation project that uses dogs to help wildlife, just as the Maremmas do in Australia.  

These are the terriers who protect songbirds from rats.

"It took 200 years to rid the island of rats, and three dogs to make sure they were gone." 

This conservation program is on South Georgia Island in the South Pacific Ocean, west of Australia, near Argentina and Antarctica.

"Rats are killing the South Georgia pipit—the world’s southernmost songbird, which doesn’t live anywhere else."

Penguins also live in this area, but they are not threatened here as they are on Middle Island in Australia. Penguins and sea lions are a tourist attraction for cruise ships.

"Dogs have amazing noses that we can’t even begin to imagine or understand, really,” says Miriam Ritchie, a dog handler and trainer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, who joined the project as a contractor."

Conservationists have long been concerned about the rodents scurrying around the island. The brown rats are thought to have landed in the 18th or 19th century, as stowaways on sealing or whaling ships that stopped there. While black rats on some of the neighboring islands have kept to a largely vegetarian diet, their brown cousins on South Georgia have been omnivorous and indiscriminate, chowing down on greenery, insects, and the South Georgia pipit—the world’s southernmost songbird, which doesn’t live anywhere else. Apparently, rats have a thing for them. “The pipit is almost absent wherever rats occur,” noted Robert Headland, a former officer in the British Antarctic Survey.

To give the birds a fighting chance, the South Georgia Heritage Trust kicked off a massive rodent eradication effort in 2011. The $13.5-million project covered roughly 400 square miles of the 1,500-square-mile island, and had the tenor of a military assault—tactics included flinging millions of poisoned pellets from helicopters. (The pellet rain was a late-summer project, to limit the collateral damage to king penguin colonies that lay eggs there from November to April.)