The Detection Dogs for Conservation team has already successfully trained several dogs, with Maya the koala poo detection dog being the most famous to date.
Maya is available to perform koala scat surveys (consultancy work).
Maya assists in the determination of koala presence or absence by locating koala faecal pellets by scent. Maya’s performances have been trialled in the field against typical (human-only) scat surveys: she was not only 20 times quicker, but also 150% more accurate!
Maya's past work
Maya has worked with many Councils, her latest projects have been surveys across entire shires as part of koala mapping in Gympie and Noosa. Maya also regularly is called to check for koala presence on properties, especially before they are bought and rehabilitated for koala conservation.
The area and number of sites that can be covered in a day are highly dependent on the type of survey wanted (number of trees searched, intensity of the search, etc), terrain, access, ground cover, density of vegetation, etc.
- Scientific paper on Maya
- Maya’s history
- Maya on LinkedIn
- Maya booking request form
- More on dogs for conservation
Maya is quicker than humans (about 20 to 350 times depending on the human…) but most importantly she finds scats where humans missed them , decreasing what is called “false negative” by about 30%. In other terms, it means Maya is about 150% more accurate than humans.
Sadly this means that when humans-only teams are used to perform koala surveys, koala habitat can be missed entirely when a detection dog would have provided more accurate results.
Maya was tested in a double blind experiment following a rigorous scientific methodology.
You can find her article in Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing peer reviewed Journal.
Maya lives with her human, Dr Romane Cristescu. They have been a team studying koalas since 2011.
No, Maya is trained on koala scats only. Contact us if you are interested in a koala detection dog.
The importance of scat surveys come from the fact that where koala scats are found – koalas have been! Even if we cannot find the koala on site on the day of the survey, finding scats indicate the site is in koala habitat.
Once scats are located, there are possibilities to derive ecological data such as diet, genetics (koala identity), number of koalas using the site, as well as in the near future hormones and health data.
This depends on the environment (weather, difficulty of the terrain) and on Maya and the handler level of fatigue (long surveys versus short surveys). But in general, Maya is not the first one of the team to get tired!
The initial training by professional dog trainer Gary Jackson took 2 to 3 months. This stage is about linking the target scent with a specific reward (tennis ball).
There is then continuous problem solving and ongoing obedience training, with the trainer available on call and in person when necessary.
Dr Romane Cristescu, Maya’s human, ensures Maya's continuous training/obedience. This involves specific scat detection sessions, as well as behavioural sessions.
For a Koala detection dog to perform at its best (both in terms of time and efficiency), it needs to work off leash. This is a huge responsibility with regard to wildlife. The handler needs an extremely obedient dog that can be trusted not to bark or chase wildlife. This takes daily training and lots of routine work. In Maya's case, it took Romane approximately one whole year of very regular obedience sessions to be fully confident in Maya's obedience not to bark at or chase wildlife.
We value scientific rigour
We design scientific trials to test our dogs. We publish the results of our research in peer review Journals.
We believe robust data are essential to support sound environmental decisions.
We value high work ethics and passion
We work hard and are willing to go the extra mile for koala conservation.
We are excited by our line of work and only involve ourselves in projects we feel passionate about and where our enthusiasm can be shared.
We value collaboration
We prioritise collaboration above competition: our motto is that together we can achieve more.
We value the dissemination of research outcomes
We actively seek to engage with the community so that the knowledge we gathered is a resource widely shared and used.
We value local expertise
We understand that the people living on the land possess knowledge that cannot be gained from reading books and scientific literature - as such we always seek to learn from the locals to gain valuable insights.
We believe using detection dogs is about contributing to conservation and making a difference for the environment. We do many things pro bono and when we get paid, any profit goes back to university research and conservation.
Complete the Koala detection survey request form for a quote.