Nessie outfoxes unwelcome visitors on Fleurieu beaches

News article |

Have you heard of Nessie, the fox-den sniffing conservation dog?
Nessie and her handler, Mandy Jones from Conservation Detection Dogs SA, were hard at work along our coast in April, covering several kilometres between Encounter Bay and Middleton with one thing on their minds – finding fox dens!

Have you heard of Nessie, the fox-den sniffing conservation dog?

Nessie and her handler, Mandy Jones from Conservation Detection Dogs SA, were hard at work along our coast in April, covering several kilometres between Encounter Bay and Middleton with one thing on their minds – finding fox dens!

Nessie is a beautiful English springer spaniel with an incredible sense of smell who is trained to locate European fox dens. This superpower makes her method of detection far more efficient and thorough than what can be done by human conservation teams, and is a very effective method to use in urbanised environments.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu’s Coast and Marine Project Officer, Caroline Taylor, explained more about why Nessie has visited our shores and how partners and volunteers came together to make it happen.

“We are so fortunate that our Fleurieu and metropolitan Adelaide coastlines are home to Australia’s most threatened beach-nesting bird, the hooded plover. There are estimated to be fewer than 70 individuals left in the region. Hooded plovers face numerous threats including off-leash dogs, human disturbance, vehicles on beaches, natural predators, litter and you guessed it – foxes!”

“The aim of this project was to locate and destroy fox dens that are in close proximity to known hooded plover breeding sites. This will hopefully provide some respite to breeding birds and improve their chick’s chance of survival,” she said.

Funded by Green Adelaide, the services of Nessie and Mandy were enlisted to detect dens in two key locations – between the Hindmarsh and Inman River estuaries and between Tokuremoar Reserve and Middleton Beach, along with sites in metropolitan Adelaide.

“We value the partnerships we have with local councils, Green Adelaide and Birdlife Australia to facilitate the concept and help us support the work of the hooded plover monitoring program. Birdlife Australia volunteers, the Friends of the Hooded Plover- Fleurieu Peninsula, were pivotal to the success of the program, helping monitor walkways, navigate Nessie and Mandy through the dunes and explain to the public what was happening and why it’s so important,” said Ms Taylor.

Nessie found a total of 24 fox dens over the few days she was working on the South Coast. Many of these dens were hidden under vegetation or in difficult to access areas of the dunes and cliffs, almost impossible to detect any other way. As Nessie sniffs out a den, her attached GPS collar, lets Mandy map the dens, so we will now work with local councils and land managers to destroy the dens.

“We’re thrilled with how well Nessie performed, and will continue to explore other novel approaches in the future as we work together to protect the hoodies!” said Ms Taylor.

The work of Nessie the conservation dog has been funded by Green Adelaide with support of the Hooded Plover Project partners.

The Hooded plover project is jointly coordinated by Green Adelaide Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu and BirdLife Australia with support from local councils. It is funded by Green Adelaide and Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Nessie outfoxes unwelcome visitors on Fleurieu beaches
Nessie and the team at Middleton celebrating her hard work. L-R Caroline Taylor (Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu); Graham, Mandy and Nessie Jones; Roslyn Shirlaw, David and Sue Thorn, Wendy White and Kerri Bartley (Birdlife Australia); Corey Jackson (Green Adelaide).

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