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Non-invasive sampling enhances reptile conservation
A blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Photo: Mark Statham/UC Davis)
Non-invasive sampling enhances reptile conservation

A black-and-white dog sits in the desert, concentrating on the tracks of lizards. Seamus, a trained detection dog, alerts his handler to the presence of excrement.

Trained conservation dogs have been used to locate faeces and collect DNA samples for everything from bears and foxes to gorillas and whales. But the technique had not been used for reptiles until recently when scientists developed a novel approach to identify the presence of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard in the Panoche Hills Recreation Area and Carrizo Plain National Monument in the USA.

They have developed new methods to recover DNA from faeces and genetically identify lizard species in the same area; and their study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, is a proof of concept for a host of reptiles.

The researchers claim that detection dogs trained to sniff out the faeces of endangered lizards – combined with genetic species identification – could represent a new, non-invasive sampling technique for lizard conservation worldwide.

Current methods for surveying lizard species typically rely on live capture or visual surveys. Excrement sampling allows biologists to study elusive, rare or dangerous animals without the need for direct contact. In addition to informing about the presence, habitat and genetics of an animal, faeces can also be analysed to inform researchers about diet, hormones, parasites and other health factors.

Using the new method, the authors genetically identified specific species for 78 per cent of the 327 samples collected by dog-handler teams across four years. Most (82%) of those identified were confirmed as being from blunt-nosed leopard lizards.

To meet regulatory monitoring requirements, more research is needed to assess the viability of using detection dogs to recover usable DNA on a larger scale. But the research highlights the broad potential this method holds for surveying and monitoring reptiles.

The study from the University of California, Davis, was published in partnership with the non-profit Working Dogs for Conservation, US Geological Survey and the US Bureau of Land Management, which organisation also funded the work.

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Webinar to focus on equine worm control

News Story 1
 Vets, veterinary nurses and RAMAs are being invited to join a free CPD webinar on late winter and early spring equine worm control.

Hosted by Zoetis vet Dr Wendy Talbot, the webinar aims to help prescribers understand which parasites are of most concern at this time of year. It will also cover how to assess parasite risk, selecting a suitable wormer and spring wormer plans, concluding with a Q&A session.

The webinar takes place on Thursday, 18 March at 10 am and will be repeated at 7 pm for those unable to listen during the day. To book the 10 am webinar, click here, and to register for the 7 pm webinar, click here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Avian influenza confirmed in Lancashire

A case of highly pathogenic (HPAI H5N8) avian influenza has been confirmed in two captive peregrine falcons on a non-commercial, non-poultry premises near Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.

Following a risk assessment, APHA has declared that no disease control zones have been put in place surrounding this non-commercial, non-poultry premises.

Eighteen cases of HPAI H5N8 have now been identified in poultry and other captive birds in England. A housing order for poultry and captive birds introduced by Defra to control the spread of the disease expired on 31 March, although bird keepers in England are still required by law to comply with biosecurity measures.

For more information, please click here.