Super Sniffer: Dog Saves Endangered Whales By Tracking Poop Scents

People can’t save everything. Try as we might (and some of us don’t even bother trying), there will always be endangered species in need of saving. Luckily, it appears dogs can be even better conservationists than humans sometimes.

One such four-legged role model is a rescue dog named Eba who is saving killer whales off the coast of Washington state. When Dr. Deborah Giles, a killer whale researcher at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology, adopted her, she didn’t know Eba would turn into a conservation canine.

How? With her super sniffer. Turns out, dogs can be trained to detect wildlife scat. (When they find it, they get to play with a toy.) The scat can clue researchers into a lot of things, like an animal’s recent meals, the presence of chemicals or pollutants, stress level, and pregnancy status.

“That’s where the dog comes in because they can smell these things from a mile away — literally a mile away,” Dr. Giles told Today.

By her second day on the water, Eba was finding whale scat. This information derived from the scat helps conservationists and lawmakers to give the whales wide breadth so as not to disturb them.

“She’s helping answer questions that will go to recovering an endangered species of beloved animals,” Dr. Giles said.

Eba is a natural. She’s also a burgeoning celebrity. She’ll be featured on the upcoming PBS series The Age of Nature narrated by none other than Uma Thurman. She also has her own social media handles and website (Eba, not Uma, that is).

For a pooch who was dumped as a puppy outside of a Sacramento, California, animal shelter wet and cold and weighing only 3 ½ pounds (she now weighs 30), this is quite the achievement. Eba was saved and now she’s saving others. If only humans could live with that kind of attitude, what a wonderful world it would be.

Cover Photo: UW/Center for Conservation Biology

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