Stefan working with his detection dog Emma to search for Greater Glider scent.

For the past seven years I have been slightly obsessed searching for Greater Gliders on Land for Wildlife properties throughout South East Queensland. Greater Gliders rarely make noises and they forage high in the canopy often in hard to traverse areas. Their cryptic nature makes it very difficult to see them or to even know if they are present.

A possible solution to better detect Greater Gliders is using a detection dog to transverse an area in the daytime and then spotlight the indicated area or tree the same night. This will reduce search hours and better pin-point areas where Greater Glider populations exist.

A wild Greater Glider emerging from its daytime hollow in a large dead stag tree. Its presence in this tree was detected by Emma the detection dog. A red light was initially used as it does not harm the eyes of nocturnal mammals. Greater Gliders are Australia’s largest glider and feed solely on eucalypt leaves high in the canopy at night.

Seeing that detection dogs are all the rage, I asked around to see if anyone would like to train their dog to sniff out Greater Gliders on Brisbane Land for Wildlife properties. Stefan Hattingh put his hand up and said his dog Emma would be great at it. Emma was trained on fox scent and Stefan thought it might be possible to train Emma on a second scent. 

A key ingredient in training a detection dog is having access to fresh scats of the target animal. Finding wild Greater Glider scat is a near impossible task as it is so small. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was able to help by sending parcels of sealed scat while making sure the collection process had as little human contact as possible to reduce scent contamination.  

We went for a test run in a Brisbane City Council reserve where there is a known population of Greater Gliders. On her first night out, Emma indicated to wild Greater Glider scent by putting both of her front feet up on the base of a stag tree. That night we waited by the stag tree and were delighted when a Greater Glider appeared from the hollow. We were all on a big high and I am eager to work with Emma and Land for Wildlife members in the future to help detect and conserve these amazing threatened animals.

Shown here are two captive Greater Gliders at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. One is almost white in colour while the other is dark grey-brown. Greater Gliders often have wide variation in colour.

 

Photo by Josh Bowell.

Article and uncredited photos by Catherine Madden
Land for Wildlife Officer
Brisbane City Council 

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