The puppers protecting an island's ecosystem

Dogs play a vital biosecurity role to protect Lord Howe Island's ecosystem

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Dogs are playing a crucial role to ensure the delicate ecosystem of Lord Howe Island remains intact.

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Pooches are on paw patrol at Lord Howe Island to ensure the delicate ecosystem of the World Heritage Site remains protected from pests.

Ryan Tate a professional animal trainer has been tasked with the role of using dogs to prevent potential pests from finding their way onto the island.

He works alongside Lord Howe Island Biosecurity Team's Tim Solomon and Rachael McFadyen.

A family of five dogs work together to ensure the island is protected from the Port Macquarie base, where ships and the planes depart from and on the island when cargo arrives

Mr Tate has been working for the Lord Howe Island Board since March when the island closed to visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time the dogs have put a halt to a number of biosecurity threats.

"The dogs are constantly finding things which would pose a potential risk," he said.

On the job. Photo: supplied.

On the job. Photo: supplied.

Pests which pose a threat to the island's environment include rodents, reptiles, some bird species and insects.

The use of the animals provides a more efficient way to screen the cargo, without relying on human effort to physically check the loads.

"The dogs are really good at quickly and effectively searching cargo that may contain fruit, vegetables and building materials and doing it a lot faster than we can," he said.

"Dogs are an incredibly important part of the biosecurity process."

The dogs also search the area around the cargo to detect if rodents or animals are building nests.

It takes about 12 months to bring a dog up to standard for the role.

Vital role: Ryan Tate from Tate Animal Training Enterprises with dogs Sebbi and Zuma at Lord Howe Island. Photo: supplied.

Vital role: Ryan Tate from Tate Animal Training Enterprises with dogs Sebbi and Zuma at Lord Howe Island. Photo: supplied.

Mr Tate said it can sometimes take a bit longer to upskill an animal to work under a number of different scenarios, such as extreme weather. And he knows all about that having spent much of the summer tracking injured koalas after bushfires swept across the Hastings and Mid-North Coast.

Darcelle Matassoni from the Lord Howe Island Board said there have not been any positive signs of rodents detected on the island since October 9, 2019.

A success check for the rodent eradication program is due to take place in August 2021.

The board is working proactively to develop plans to mitigate the risk posed by a number of introduced species.

Ms Matassoni said the community has been involved in programs to protect the island's environment.

"Environmental protection or 'biosecurity' is an idea which the Lord Howe Island community have implemented and understood for over a century," she said.

"An understanding that is helping us design some world first practices in biosecurity in a community environment post rodent eradication."

Staff have been working with stakeholders such as Birdon to significantly reduce the risk of the rodents and other species from coming to the island

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