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 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.
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.
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.
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 – 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:
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 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.
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, you will always be a little legend.
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.
Hopefully this fact sheet on the DOC website about our Conservation Dogs programme might help, it also contains contact details for a DOC Technical Advisor if you have further questions.
Miriam misses her Tui dearly
Awesome wee dog
What a marvellous dog. You would miss her tremendously. Happy memories.