In the struggle to conserve ornate box turtles, boykin spaniels have emerged as an unexpected ally. Conservationists can conduct health exams on the animals since the specially trained canines can sniff out the turtles. Compared to a scientist who can only find one turtle every four or five hours, the four-legged volunteers can sniff out 2.5 turtles per search hour.
The dogs have found the turtles far more quickly than we can, which has been quite helpful. They are fantastic conservation tools, says Dr. Matt Allender, a clinical veterinarian at the Chicago Zoological Society and head of the University of Illinois Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory.
One of the two box turtle species found in the US state of Illinois is the ornate box turtle. Due to human encroachment, both have seen habitat degradation and a severe drop in population. Researchers from the University of Illinois and the Chicago Zoological Society used the dogs extensively in their conservation efforts. It is the longest and largest study of its kind, now in its fifteenth year.
Contrary to what you would believe, we share more traits with turtles. Each species uses both land and the sea has a small home range and lives a long time. Therefore, a box turtle’s health is highly indicative of the state of the environment and its natural resources. Therefore, this conservation endeavor offers knowledge that aids in safeguarding the health of numerous species, including humans.
Once the turtles have been identified, scientists take measurements of the turtles’ bodies, collect blood samples, and make notes about the animal’s eyes, ears, and nose. The previous 14 years’ worth of data is supplemented by this data. This study is assisting scientists in identifying the threats to the environment and the survival of the species.
According to wildlife veterinarian and researcher Dr. Matt Allender, “the health of the ornate box turtle is a mirror of the health of the environment from which we derive our natural resources.” Box turtles can be saved by keeping an eye on their health issues, such as liver and kidney problems and different infections, which also helps us learn how to best preserve the health of many other animals, including people.