Every dog lover out there will know that the list of tasks these amazing creatures can perform is seemingly endless. Therapy dogs, service dogs, canine life guards, dogs who heroically step in to save their humans from life-or-death situations … is there anything they can’t do?
And now, along comes Finn the Wonder Dog who works with environmental protection group Island Conservation to help with the removal of invasive species from ecologically vulnerable locations around the world. Last year, he played a vital role in the organization’s successful restoration project on Choros Island, Chile, which helped to preserve the local population of Humboldt Penguins and Peruvian Diving-petrels.
Karen Andrew, a colleague of Finn, has described this Golden Labrador’s career as “quite possibly one of the most interesting and intrepid careers of anyone you will ever meet. He’s spanned the globe from New Zealand and Australia to Macquarie Island (in the Subantarctic) and Chile.”
Andrew considers it an inestimable privilege to work alongside Finn.
Finn was saved from an animal shelter as a young puppy. Before joining the Island Conservation team, he spent a number of years in New Zealand, being trained by wildlife contractor Guus Knopers to sniff out invasive species. He initially put those skills to good use with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service before travelling to Macquarie Island in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
Here, he and a number of other specially trained dogs spent three years searching for signs of the last remaining invasive European rabbits. The species had initially been brought to the island by humans as a food source in 1879, but their presence soon led to the “near catastrophic destruction of the island’s vegetation and the protection it (provided) the island’s incredible biodiversity.” The project was declared a success in 2014.
Since then, Finn’s assistance has been invaluable to the Island Conservation staff and volunteers.
Madeleine Pott, Project Manger of the organization, said, “Invasive species removal projects are always complicated, but Finn – with his highly tuned nose – made the job that much easier. Finn was integral part of the team that helped confirm that Choros Island, home to a large population of Vulnerable Humboldt Penguins, was a success. Choros Island’s native plants and animals now have an opportunity to recover in the absence of invasive rabbits. This project is an essential part of a larger effort to restore the region’s island ecosystems to preserve biodiversity and support local marine and tourism economies, food security, and human well-being.”
Finn is quite the Wonder Dog indeed!
All image source: Island Conservation