The list of endangered animals and plants on Earth continues to increase in number. In order to stop the trend, what experts need is more information.

Now, a new study published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by Dr. Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and her colleagues, shows that specially trained detection dogs can be indispensible in such cases. According to their report, dogs can possibly help find cases faster and more effectively than any other methods.

“We urgently need to know more about these species,” said Dr. Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth of the UFZ. “But first we must find them.”

Aerial and satellite images could be useful when mapping open landscape or detecting larger animals, but what they need is to check overgrown areas and smaller, hidden species. This is where experts carry out the research themselves and work with cameras, hair traps, and similar tricks.

The use of specially trained detection dogs can be useful. While humans have about six million olfactory receptors, dogs on the other hand have more than 200 million — and a beagle with 300 million. This means dogs can perceive an extremely wide range of odors.

“In order to be able to better assess their potential, we wanted to know how detection dogs have previously been used around the world,” Grimm-Seyfarth said.

“We were particularly interested in which breeds of dogs were used, which species they were supposed to track down, and how well they performed,” explains the researcher.

The researchers said dogs helped find more than 400 different animal species — most commonly mammals from the cat, dog, bear and marten families. They also sometimes sniff pests such as bark beetles or invasive plants.

“In principle, you can train all dog breeds for such tasks,” Grimm-Seyfarth said. “But some of them may require more work than others.”

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