Since mid 2009 a scat detection dog has been used to survey the Seima Protection Forest in an effort to detect Tiger scat (feces) and this will allow us to pinpoint the location of Tigers in the area. In addition to confirming the presence of Tigers, scat discoveries would also yield vital DNA evidence that would enable researchers to estimate a baseline population for Tigers in the area.
Detection dogs, also known as sniffer dogs, are trained to identify the scent of a particular object and indicate its whereabouts to a handler. A dog's sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than humans, allowing them to search large areas more efficiently and to alert us to scat which would otherwise be missed by researchers searching by eye alone. Furthermore, this method is non-invasive in that we are not attempting to find the actual Tigers, only their scat, which minimizes disturbance to the animals and is safer for all involved.
Cambodia is the first country in South-east Asia to employ dogs to search for Tigers, a method pioneered in Russia's Far East. Dogs in Russia were originally used to identify individual Tigers by matching scat found in the field to an existing reference collection of known animals. Since then techniques that allow for identification of individuals from fecal DNA have taken over but dogs still assist with scat collection in the field. This method is particularly suitable for conducting research on rare and elusive species, such as large carnivores, and dogs have also been used to search for jaguars in South America and cheetahs in Africa.
The first sniffer dog, named Maggie, arrived in Cambodia in February 2009.