Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are doing something odd.
They are collecting Cheetah faecals or poo to help with wild Cheetah conservation. How is collecting poo helping Cheetahs in the wild you may ask? By helping to train dogs to recognise Cheetah scat in the wild, that’s how. Steve Austin, a dog trainer based in Sydney is currently training scat-sniffing dogs to scent recognise different Cheetah in the wild.
This project will help Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia conduct a census of the wild Cheetah by identifying their scat or poo. This will help establish numbers in the wild to determine whether the population is increasing, declining or remaining steady in Namibia.
Every fortnight, keepers collect the samples and send them to Sydney for Steve to use as part of his dog training regime. This includes covering a tennis ball in the scent of a Cheetah poo and then hiding the ball for the dogs to find. The dogs will learn to seek out and find Cheetah in the wild just by recognising their different scents through their scat.
Being involved in this important project by collecting Cheetah faecal samples from the Zoo’s Cheetah is ultimately going to help their cousins in the wild so that they can continue to live and survive in their natural habitat.