Two-year-old Brin has recently joined the CapeNature team. Her job is to help conserve the critically endangered geometric tortoise. She’s the first conservation dog to do this work in South Africa.
‘The Malinois is a working breed which is part of one of the four varieties of Belgian shepherds,’ says Vicki. ‘They’re recognised internationally as excellent working dogs and their short brown coat is very suitable to working in shrubby, thorny veld.’
Vicki says that Brin loves her ball more than anything else in the world, even food. So it’s the ball that is her reward for sniffing out tortoises.
Geometric tortoise under threat
The geometric tortoise has been listed by the IUCN as one of the Top 100 most threatened species on Earth. It was recently upgraded to ‘critically endangered’ status and is the most endangered land tortoise in South Africa and the third most endangered in the world.
To monitor and conserve this little creature, conservationists need information gathered from the field. That’s why Vicki and Brin have been working across the Western Cape on presence/absence surveys, species diversity surveys, total population estimates, even search and rescue.
The cryptic colouration and sedentary behaviour of the geometric tortoise makes it hard to spot when you’re limited to visual clues, as we humans are. And that’s where Brin’s sensitive nose and high energy are proving so useful. And she’s happy to keep going as long as you reward her with a little round ball.
Read about how Anatolian dogs are also helping to conserve wildlife
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