This dog saves whales by sniffing their poo
Back in elementary school, it kind of always felt like grown-ups were outsourcing the job of protecting the world’s cetaceans to us kids. You’ve got money AND cars; why don’t YOU save the whales, guys? But now this vital mission has been taken away from the elementary school children of America and handed to even cuter mammals: dogs.
Or, really, just one very dedicated dog, as The New York Times reports. A rescued pup named Tucker helps scientists monitor whale populations by sniffing out their droppings.
A dog named Tucker with a thumping tail and a mysterious past as a stray on the streets of Seattle has become an unexpected star in the realm of canine-assisted science. He is the world’s only working dog, marine biologists say, able to find and track the scent of orca scat, or feces, in open ocean water — up to a mile away, in the smallest of specks.
This sounds like a pretty shitty (if you will) job for a creature with a sensitive nose, but according to the Times, “orca scat does not smell that bad.” Still, it smells strongly enough that Tucker can both sniff it out and direct humans in their boats to direction of the orca smell. He also can do it fast, before the whale scat sinks and well in time for the scientists he works with to collect the samples they use to monitor the orca population’s health.
Tucker, though, will soon have competition — Sadie, a retriever with a monomaniacal ball obsession. Balls are an integral part of the whale dogs’ training, and Tucker’s motivated to find the scat by the promise of the ball he’ll get to play with once he’s done his job. You can bet Sadie, who once sat for an hour staring at her ball on top of a fridge, will be really, really good at anything that will get her that reward. Even if it means big snootfuls of whale poo.
- Tracking a Subtle Scent, a Dog May Help Save the Whales , New York Times
Get Grist in your inbox