German rail operator Deutsche Bahn is training six dogs to prevent delays on big construction projects by sniffing out protected wildlife on prospective sites.
The company said the dogs would start work next year.
“So far, people have been doing this job,” the organisation said. “They have to observe the areas several times over the course of a year, and this can take a lot of effort. The dogs will be able to sniff out the protected animals in a single mission. New routes for a larger and more reliable rail service will therefore reach rail customers earlier in the future.”
Jens Bergmann, a director in charge of infrastructure planning DB Netz, commented: “The use of species detection dogs in construction projects in Germany is a novelty. With their fine sense of smell, dogs can find protected animals at any time of the year and in almost any weather. That helps us tremendously.”
Birgit Braun, managing director of animal protection NGO Aktionsgemeinschaft Artenschutz, told the SWR website that dogs and handlers had to train together to form a well-rehearsed team. She said: “The dog is trained in methods to indicate what it has found. If he barks, the handler knows. Others sit down. This is especially useful when it comes to finding other animals that would otherwise be frightened or chased away. This can go so far that the dogs are trained so that the tip of the nose points in the direction of the find.”
She added that dogs have to be trained on a target species. “For example, we have a sniffer dog with us in the cheetah protection project in Namibia, who is trained to find cheetah’s droppings. The dog is trained in such a way that it only ‘strikes’ when it comes to cheetah droppings – it does not do so when it comes to lion or leopard poo.”
She said any dog could be trained to find protected species, but some are more suitable because they have a stronger play instinct and are more likely to be “in the mood” to tell their handler when they have made a discovery.