Black Lab Cross
First Assignment -- 2006
Retired Narcotic Detection Dog
Merlin worked on the New Mexico bat project in 2006 and then in 2007 he joined Dr. Karen Dematteo of University of Missouri -- St. Louis for a pilot project for detection of bush dogs in Argentina. After the project Merlin was retired to Karen's care. He made friends whereever they went -- doing demos to highlight the abilities of detection dogs and to recognize their contribution to wildlife field research. He is greatly missed by all.
A part of Karen's family for the last year of his life, Merlin went to the Rainbow Bridge in 2008. As a tribute to his contribution to wildlife research the Palm Beach Zoo has placed a paver in his honor in the butterfly garden of the zoo.
The bush dog (Speothos venaticus), listed as CITES Appendix 1-Vulnerable, is a small (5-6 kg) and rarely seen canid from Central and South America. Some researchers and conservationists feel that the bush dog may need to be listed as Endangered, but this is not possible without more conclusive information on its status in the wild. The species’ distribution, status, and ecological requirements are poorly understood and primarily based on opportunistic sightings. The World Conservation Union Canid Specialist Group (IUCN CSG) recommended that research with this specie s focus on gaining insight into their basic ecology so that a data-driven conservation strategy can be formulated. However, information on the bush dog has been lacking since standard field techniques (e.g., live-traps, camera traps, hair snares) have had little or no success with this species. In fact, despite multiple attempts to capture bush dogs, only a single family group has ever been radio collared and monitored in the field. This study will use detection dogs, a highly successful technique with carnivores, and advances in genetic methodologies, as methods to rapidly gather ecological information (e.g., presence/absence, home range size, number of individuals in an area) on the elusive and wide-ranging bush dog. The results will then be combined with GIS information to generate species-specific management models that can be directly implemented by conservationists (e.g., evaluate area availability versus need, identify areas of potential conflict, locate areas where additional research or protection efforts are required).
2007 PROJECT -- Argentina
Dr. Karen DeMatteo, Research Associate at both University of Missouri – St. Louis and St. Louis Zoo
Photo Courtesy of K. DeMatteo
Photo to left and below are of Merlin working on the
bat project in New Mexico.