Scat Detection Dogs

I work with a detection dog named Pinkerton to find fecal samples from unhabituated primates. Pink-AliDogs have noses tens of thousands of times more powerful than our own, which allows them to smell what our eyes can see. Pinkerton is trained much like a police dog who searches for bombs or drugs, but with a more unusual target smell: primate scat. Thanks to Pink’s powerful nose, we have been able to find hundreds of scat samples from gibbons, leaf monkeys, and macaques in the mountaintop forests of Yunnan, China.

Molecular primatology has been limited by the ability to collect non-invasive genetic samples from unhabituated primates. Because many primates are endangered, arboreal, or live in groups not studied by primatologists, it is often difficult to obtain large numbers of DNA samples. By working with a detection dog, I am able to reach a far broader range of the primate distribution for in my research.

pink search

Here we are searching for gibbon scat in China’s Wuliang Mountains. Pink takes the lead while the handler (me) walks behind keeping an eye on his movements.

Below, we are resting with members the Yongde Daxueshan western black crested gibbon survey. The crest of the mountain about 3,000 meters up seemed like a good place for a group photo!