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Russian dog to sniff out tigers

A DOG trained to sniff out tiger droppings has been flown in from Russia to help conservationists determine if the big cats still roam one of Cambodia's largest nature reserves.

Starting next week, Maggie the German wirehaired pointer will begin scouring the undergrowth and sniffing for tiger scent on trees at the 3,000-square-kilometer Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in northeastern Cambodia.

The move comes after camera traps and field surveys failed to find the big cats last year. The last sign of a tiger was in 2007, when a paw print was spotted in the park.

"We think this is the best method when we have a large area and not that many tigers," said Hannah O'Kelly, a wildlife monitoring adviser for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which along with the wild cat conservation group Panthera is spending about US$30,000 to bring Maggie and a second dog from Russia to Seima this year.

"They are so much more efficient than people ... because they have smelling capabilities that are a hundred million times better than ours," she said.

Hiring of the two dogs is part of a US$10 million, 10-year initiative by WCS and Panthera, also based in New York.

The initiative aims to increase the numbers of tigers by 50 percent in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Russian Far East and Thailand through measures that include monitoring, assessments of threats and minimizing the dangers facing big cats.

Across the continent, the number of tigers has plummeted to 5,000 from a high of 100,000 a century ago.


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