DOC’s conservation dogs have interesting jobs. Learn more about the role Jazz, who works with Cody Thyne in Twizel, plays in locating some of our precious native bird species.
Jazz is a German wirehaired pointer. She was initially trained to indicate (or ‘point’ as the breed name suggests) North Island brown kiwi. She has also been certified to indicate whio/blue duck, kakī/black stilt and wrybill.
Jazz comes in handy when we’re trying to find black stilt nests and chicks on the Mackenzie Basin river beds. The chicks are small, camouflaged and freeze motionless amongst the river rocks when their parents raise the alarm. Normally, to find these chicks, we would need to revisit the site later that day or the next, with a portable hide and a great deal of time and patience. But with our eyes and the dog’s keen nose we can generally find the chicks within 10 minutes, once we have an idea of where they might be.
This is a huge timesaver and allows us to use our time and resources more effectively. Not to mention how much of a pleasure it is for me to watch a trained pointer do what it does best.
Often we will work across boundaries and will assist other DOC projects in their work, if time and resources allow.
In January each year Jazz is requested to assist in whio/blue duck surveys in the rivers of Fiordland.
It is a privilege to walk these rivers and see the countryside down there but it is hard on dogs. The granite rocks and boulders play havoc with a dog’s paws, not to mention the constant rock hopping and slipping and sliding off greasy boulders. Generally, after three to four days’ work a dog will need a day off to recover.
In February this year we also travelled to Karamea on the west coast of the South Island to assist in a survey of the Oparara/Ugly River whio security site. This is one of eight sites of national importance to whio recovery.
In the new year, we may return to the area to assist in a whio survey of the Heaphy River and some of its tributaries, to determine the current status and distribution of whio in the area – we currently have very little information on this. There may also be an opportunity to search for whio in the Wangapeka as well.
Jazz had a couple of months off over winter, but is busy again with the new kakī nesting season in full swing. We have had to release a few chicks back to the wild and there are a number of pairs that have managed to hatch chicks themselves on the river, so this keeps her fully employed!
A new partnership between DOC and Kiwibank launched in September will help us build on our Conservation Dogs programme. With Kiwibank’s support we can unleash the potential of these incredible dogs in a nationally coordinated programme. Find out more about this partnership on the DOC website.