Scat-Sniffing Dogs Have Yet To Find Signs of Tigers in M’kiri

Dogs used by wildlife conservation groups in Mondolkiri pro­vince to sniff out the droppings of In­dochinese tigers have yet to turn up any proof of the endangered animal’s presence, but the groups say they are undeterred.

Wildlife Conservation Society officials started using a dog in Feb­ruary 2009 in the 300,000-hec­tare Seima Biodiversity Area in an effort to learn more about the numbers and health of any tigers in the area by examining their waste. But so far, the canine has not found any tiger scat, WCS Country Director Mark Gately said yesterday.

“It’s not a huge surprise, as the reason we brought in the dog is that we knew the density [of ti­gers] to be extremely low,” he said.

The dog will continue to follow suspected tiger trails until the program wraps up in May or June, Mr Gately said. Then, the dog could be transferred to another tiger habitat, within or outside of Cam­bodia, he said.

Seng Teak, country director for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said yesterday that two dogs his organization is using in eastern Mondolkiri have found 197 scat samples, but WWF officials have yet to determine if any of them are from tigers, as the dogs are trained to find droppings from tigers, leopards and wild dogs.

“We think we have tiger scat piles, but it’s not 100 percent until the DNA tests are done,” he said.

In December, WWF started using dogs in their tiger-detection efforts in 16 blocks of land, each measuring 17 km by 17 km, be­cause tigers’ elusive natures make accurate counts difficult, and be­cause a similar program in Viet­nam in which dogs are used to track rhinos has been successful, Mr Teak said. “It is difficult for humans to find tigers because the areas of dry forests have trees and grasses; it is very difficult to detect signs of tigers,” he added.

In a report released in January, WWF estimated there are fewer than 30 tigers left in Cambodia.

A WCS report released the following month stated it was likely there are fewer than 10 tigers in Mondolkiri.

 

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