MPI introduces new biosecurity sniffers

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Two young biosecurity sniffers were introduced to the world today, along with a new type of detector dog and a new home for the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Auckland-based canine team.

Beagle puppies Darcie (girl) and Darwin (boy), collectively known as D-litter, were born by caesarean in May to working detector dog Zuma under the MPI detector dog breeding programme.

Steve Gilbert, MPI Director Border Clearance Services says the MPI breeding programme “provides a cost-effective way of producing fit-for-purpose biosecurity detector dogs”. 

The programme has produced 27 litters since 1996 and nearly 80 percent of the individual puppies have become successful biosecurity detector dogs.

The new puppies will shortly leave for private puppy-walking homes in Auckland to help prepare them for their training ahead. If all goes to plan, they will start sniffing out biosecurity risk items at ports and airports around August next year.

The detector dogs on show at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre today included media celebrity Clara, a recently graduated border biosecurity dog, and Boston, a springer spaniel that MPI is training to work in the field to detect any pest that makes it across the border.

“We are working to develop a new type of dog that will be able to help with biosecurity responses. It will have the flexibility to be trained to detect any new pest that makes it to New Zealand.”

Steve Gilbert, MPI Director Border Clearance Services says traditional border biosecurity dogs are not suitable to act in the incursion role, as they are trained to sniff out food and could be distracted by food odours when working outside.

MPI aims to have two incursion dogs assisting with biosecurity responses in the near future.

The open day also showcased MPI’s new kennel facility at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre. The facility will allow MPI to house some 15 additional dogs.

“MPI is using a lot more biosecurity detector dog teams than in the past, and the number is increasing each year. The new facility gives the ministry extra space to keep growing the programme.” 

Five new detector dog teams (handler and dog) graduated from their training in June and MPI is in the process of recruiting six new handlers. It has some 40 dog teams operating at New Zealand ports and airports and the International Mail Centre in Auckland.

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