Pepin is famous for going to work after just 9 weeks of training, finding 52 scats in a single day.With unemployment at an all time low, it seems controversial that some very solid jobs are going to non-humans, but there are just some things that humans will never be qualified to do. Unfair, you say? Well, let’s run down the list of job requirements for this specific position and if you can find a human that qualifies, reply at once.

This candidate must:

Yes, the only qualified species is: Dog.

The Job: Working Dog for Conservation.

I saw these dogs in action at the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) Expo in San Francisco in October. The organization, Working Dogs for Conservation and their dog demo with Pepin took center stage during lunch. While Pepin was inside the building schmoozing with the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall, her trainers hid scat in a giant, wide open field area. Once the crowd gathered, Pepin was taken outside, given directions and once released, blasted with determination and blatant glee out into the field. Within 3 minutes she had located the scat and sat proudly next to it, indicating to her trainer that she had done her job; a job that would have taken a human hours.

Being able to find scat helps humans track down various species in the wild and provides needed species conservation information. Deployed conservation dogs have increased scat sample collection rates and have discovered samples that are smaller and more cryptic than people alone are capable of detecting. The working dogs for conservation have found scat of moose, snow leopard, grizzly bear, wolf and cougar, to name a few. The dogs have also been trained to find plants and lost pets and people.

Partnering with dogs is nothing new. Humans have been using the 220 million scent-sensitive cells available for canine olfaction for centuries. These animals are truly man’s best friend, but perhaps they are becoming nature’s best friend, as well. They certainly deserve to hold this most unusual job.

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Working Dogs for Conservation 9 December,2009Amy Gotliffe


Amy Gotliffe

Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo. She is a Detroit transplant, enjoying the good Bay Area life for 17 years. She has a degree in communications, holds several teaching credentials and has a Masters Degree in Environmental Education. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, teaching second grade, working on campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, producing earth day events and generally spreading the word about wildlife and green living. She currently works at The Oakland Zoo where she serves as the Conservation Manager. There, she coordinates support for international, national and local conservation efforts, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, produces the zoo's Earth Day event, leads eco-trips, teaches the various educational programs and heads up an on-site Green Team. On her list of other passions are travel, photography, music and the lindy hop. :-)

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