Jobs at DOC: Tui the conservation dog

Department of Conservation —  13/03/2015

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Last year conservation lost a canine icon. Today DOC Ranger Miriam Ritchie reflects on the life of Tui, conservation dog and little legend. 

Northland fox terrier Tui was mother to DOC’s original predator dog programme. She passed away on 30 December at the age of 17.

Tui on Secretary Island, Fiordland.

Tui on Secretary Island, Fiordland

Tui was the second fully certified predator dog in New Zealand (her father Mick was the first). They were both trained and worked by Scott Theobald.

While dad Mick was a fox terrier, who detected both cats and mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels), Tui’s particular talent was in detecting mustelids.

She was an extraordinary working dog, combining all the best traits of typical fox terrier tenacity – high energy, mischievous, clever, proud, wilful, determined and above all, very loyal.

Tui taking a rest on some rocks after work.

Chilling after a hard day on the tops

She began her career at Trounson Kauri Park, a mainland island reserve in Northland. She went on to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand, hunting stoats with Scott on offshore islands as well as mainland areas like Boundary Stream and Macraes Flat. She also did early work for the Animal Health Board, seeking out ferrets in North Otago.

Tui did a lot of great work in Fiordland, searching for stoats on islands in Doubtful, Breaksea and Dusky sounds and Codfish Island. She completed big trips to Tin Range and northwest Stewart Island, and even got to work on Raoul Island in the Kermadecs.

Tui in a helicopter.

Checking on the chopper pilot.

Beyond her exceptional career as a working dog, Tui was an excellent mother.

Tui, with her kennel-mate border terrier Jack bred many of the top predator dogs now working around New Zealand and overseas.

Tui with her pups.

Tui with her pups

Her descendants are now working all over New Zealand, as well as in Tasmania looking for feral cats, rabbits, and rodents; and in Japan, as Search and Rescue dogs and detecting mongoose.

Some of Tui’s children (and where they’ve gone):

Tiki the conservation dog.


Tiki – mustelids in NZ
Jak – rodents in NZ
Tama – rabbits on Macquarie
Koha – mustelids in NZ
Clay – cats on Tasmanian islands
Tawa – mongooses in Japan
Rata – mongooses in Japan
Waewae – Search & Rescue dog in Japan

Some of Tui’s grandchildren:

Conservation dogs Piri and Pai hanging out the back of a DOC vehicle.

Piri and Pai

Spirit – mustelids in NZ
Brown – cats in NZ
Pai – rodents in NZ
Olive – mustelids in NZ
Piri – interim rodents in NZ
Hairy – rodents in NZ
Rimu – mongooses in Japan
Becky – mongooses in Japan
Patrick – mongooses in Japan

Some of Tui’s great-grandchildren:

Wai – interim rodents in NZ
Will – interim rodents in NZ

Tui and daughter Bell.

Tui and daughter Bell

Tui worked until she lost her hearing at the age of 11. Nearing 17, she was still keen for morning and evening walks two weeks before her death. Though she was deaf as a post and somewhat of a liability, in typical Tui-style she wanted to be a part of everything and never gave up.

Tui with a couple of her many pups.

Tui with a couple of her many pups

Her kennelmates still had the utmost respect for her. They’d look after her, but never messed with her. She died at Matapouri Bay and is buried on a hill there.

Tui on Secretary Island, Fiordland.

Tui on Secretary Island, Fiordland, hunting stoats

Tui, you will always be a little legend.

6 responses to Jobs at DOC: Tui the conservation dog


    Great story Miri, a fitting tribute!


    Does anyone know what these dogs hit rates are? How many false positives do they produce? In the pest control industry dogs produce variable results with a lot of false positives. I would be interested in the strike rate these dogs have and what breed is the most successful? Thanks.


    Miriam misses her Tui dearly


    Awesome wee dog

    Jennifer Thurmer 13/03/2015 at 3:50 pm

    What a marvellous dog. You would miss her tremendously. Happy memories.