INDEPENDENT NEWS

Dog Training A Winner for Hunters and Endangered Kiwi

Published: Wed 13 Jun 2012 11:52 AM
News release – for immediate release
Dog Training A Winner for Hunters and Endangered Kiwi
Guus Knopers and dog on MacQuarie Island
Hunters who train their dogs to avoid killing kiwi in the bush could be in for a lot more than just conservation kudos says canine behavioural expert, Guus Knopers.
“Land owners, especially those whose properties are rich with wild boar and deer, are increasingly only allowing hunters with trained dogs onto their property,” he says.
Kiwi populations are thriving where landowners have introduced weasel and stoat eradication programmes. They don’t want to see their efforts eroded by careless hunters, so require them to follow conservation practises, he adds.
A director for International Canines for Conservation, Mr Knopers has been a dog trainer for the last 21 years. Based in Te Puke, he is sought-after around the world for his skill in training even the ‘hardest of the hard’ dogs in everything from avoiding kiwi to finding explosives.
Each year he takes more than 400 hunting dogs through the 15-minute kiwi aversion training programme.
“It’s incredibly simple. The dog is led around a course where there are several kiwi nests, or fresh kiwi kill. Each time the dog tries to attack, it receives a short, sharp shock from an electric collar. By the end of the training, the dog is no longer interested in attacking the kiwi because of the consequences it brings. ”
“I’ve turned feral dogs, spoilt dogs and old dogs into highly trained canines. Never think your dog can’t learn, and even worse, don’t ever think that your dog wouldn’t kill a kiwi, because any dog, no matter how small or cute, can kill.”
BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust executive director, Michelle Impey adds that while this method of kiwi aversion training for dogs does work, it doesn’t have a 100 percent success rate.
“Despite everyone’s best efforts, no aversion training is fool-proof. Hunters must still watch their dogs carefully in the bush and other dogs shouldn’t be taken into the bush at all, not even on a leash.”
Ms Impey sited a recent case of the damage dogs can cause if left unattended: “A pregnant hunting dog was left in the Kahurangi area of the West Coast, South island. She had five pups, some of which starved and some of which killed kiwi to survive.
“It only takes a few seconds for a dog to sniff out a kiwi and shake it causing death or such massive shock and internal bleeding that the kiwi later dies.”
“Now kiwi numbers are reduced in the area and the emaciated dogs have had to be put down. This tragic situation could have been avoided if the hunter had just taken his dog home.”
Dogs are responsible for more than 78 percent of adult kiwi deaths in hot spots such as Northland.
With each adult kiwi capable of laying up to 100 eggs in its lifetime, each death is a blow to already endangered populations.
To encourage hunters to get their dogs trained, BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust is running a competition: Hunters who train their dogs have a chance of winning a trip to the Motu with a friend and four dogs this year. “They’ll be flown in by helicopter to hunt for the famous, aggressive Motu boar or the elusive stag,” says Ms Impey.
Two hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions. Today there are less than 100,000. All species are endangered and some, like rowi in the South Island’s West Coast with a population under 400, critically so.
There are kiwi aversion training programmes for dog-owners all over the country. The majority of them are free, or heavily subsidised. To find a programme near you go to www.savethekiwi.org.nz
ENDS

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