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Labrador retriever dogs to sniff out African snails in Galapagos Islands


Quito (Ecuador): A Labrador retriever dog called Darwin is found to be very expert in sniffing out giant African land snails which are really a threat to crops. This is the reason why the environmentalists have given him the duty of tracing out snails which destroy crops in Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Earlier, he was crashed out of a service dog program for people. The name of the pooch ‘Darwin’ is considered to be his perfect name. The name memorizes the English naturalist Charles Darwin who had conducted studies on archipelago’s endemic species which helped him to develop the theory of evolution. The

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gold-colored Darwin and his friend Neville, a black Labrador said to have rescued from an animal shelter. But they were donated by an U.S. organization called Dogs for Conservation which used to train canines with an intention to help people interested in wildlife preservation tasks. These dogs were later selected to hunt the mollusks, the largest species of snails found on land which can grow up to 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) long. Even though Darwin and Neville are still being trained by the authorities, they have already begun their works to sniff out snails and their eggs. These molluscs and their eggs are then removed by the environmental workers. Galapagos environmental authorities are expected to bring eight more such sniffer dogs to be worked in seaports and airports by 2017. They hope the induction of these dogs can block the arrival of additional invasive animals and plant species. Initiatives using sniffer dogs to prevent the introduction of invasive species into niche ecosystems also exist in countries including Mexico, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In the website called Dogs for Conversation, it has been mentioned the unsuccessful attempt to make Darwin as a service dog for humans and also the benefit of bringing him to work for conservation. The site has pointed out that the dog was more qualified to be a service dog to nature. According to the site, Darwin could not be worked out as a therapy dog, as he was too overactive. The site has also appreciated the dog’s new role as a sniffer dog which helped him to become calm and well dedicated. It is for the first time that sniffer dogs have been called on to help protect the environment in the Galapagos archipelago. The 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserves are considered to be a World Heritage Site in danger by the UNESCO because of the risks caused by human development. Martin Espinosa, the interim director of the Galapagos Bio-security Agency, said that the snails were among the most invasive species in the world as they could harm other species and the ecosystem, and transmit diseases to humans. In the past, it is said that the workers of this agency were ventured out in the rain at night to hunt for the snails which was absolutely a limited success. The epidemic crop disease is currently affected in some 20

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hectares (about 50 acres) on Santa Cruz, including banana, pineapple, carrot, tomato, pepper, cassava and coffee cultivation, damaging the food supply for the island residents. Such giant snails are not found on other archipelago islands in Ecuador.   Video on dogs which sniff out African snails