Antipoaching news

First Carbofuran search dog certified in Austria

16 January 2024
Veterinary University Vienna

As part of the LIFE WolfAlps EU project, special dog teams are being trained in Italy and Austria to help in the fight against wildlife crime. With their highly developed sense of smell, dogs are not only used to detect explosives, drugs or mines. They can also play an important role in species protection, as we described HERE.

The term wildlife crime is used to summarise acts that are committed illegally against wild animals, whether protected or not. This includes the illegal shooting of strictly protected animal species, the setting of illegal traps or the poisoning of wild animals using prepared bait.

First Carbofuran search dog certified in Austria - Life Wolfalps EU
Searching an area for animal carcasses. (c) T. Walter

The LIFE WolfAlps EU project focuses on the prevention and avoidance of such illegal activities. One way of doing this is to train dogs to find dead wild animals as well as illegally placed poisoned baits. The dogs’ exceptionally well-developed sense of smell becomes a helper in nature and species conservation. In Austria, a dog was first trained for the smell animal carcasses (primarily birds and mammals). This makes it possible to find possible victims of illegal activities, from a freshly dead small bat to the several-week-old carcass of a white-tailed eagle or wolf.

In a further step, the dog was trained on the substance most frequently used in Austria in cases of wildlife crime: Carbofuran. This substance, which is highly toxic to mammals and birds, was authorised as an insecticide in the EU until 2008. Although the sale, use and even possession of this substance is banned in Austria, it is repeatedly detected in cases of bird of prey poisoning in particular. A dog that can detect this substance opens up new possibilities, both preventively and acutely, to prevent these cases of wildlife crime or to help solve them. This always happens in close cooperation with the police. In Italy the APDUs follow different training proceadures but are able to recognise the toxic substances that are used across the country in a diversified way, as described HERE.

The training was carried out in collaboration of the project partner University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna with Dr Leopold Slotta-Bachmayr and the association “Naturschutzhunde“. Florian Schneider and Christoph Wishofer from Kynotec GmbH were responsible for the external testing and certification of the team. In several challenging scenarios, both the odour recognition and the search performance of the team in the field and indoors were tested. This is the first dog in Austria to be trained and certified on this substance!

In Italy there are a total of 10 search dog teams in the Alpine region that work in this field for nature and species conservation and were trained as part of the LIFE WolfAlps (2014-2018) and LIFE WolfAlps EU projects.