The Dog Protecting Our Wild Birds

A welcome for Jinx the biosecurity dog

The Welsh Government has provided £250,000 as part of a new project which will expand biosecurity for Wales and includes using Jinx, a three-year-old working cocker spaniel, the UK’s first conservation detection dog. He has been in training with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for the past two years to sniff out rats. When left undisturbed, invasive species can cause devastation to already threatened seabird species.

That’s why Jinx’s job is so important. A single pregnant rat can produce a colony of more than 300 in just eight months. Rats are expert hunters and would quickly eat eggs, chicks and even adult birds.

Wales’s coastline is globally important for breeding seabirds. More than half of the world’s manx shearwater nest underground in burrows on islands that dot our shores. However, the seabirds are in trouble. A recent Birds of Conservation Concern in Wales report highlighted how vital it is to protect puffins, kittiwakes, black-headed gulls, and common, arctic and sandwich terns.

Though the iconic puffin has achieved a population boom in Wales in recent years thanks to conservation efforts, globally, its unstable numbers put it on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

Climate change, invasive species, unsustainable fisheries, marine development and pandemics – such as the recent Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI) which killed more than 5,000 gannets on Grassholm Island last year – all threaten the survival of these birds.

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “I was delighted to meet Jinx who I have no doubt will deliver the mission we have tasked him with – to protect Wales’s seabirds from rats and other mammalian predators. Thanks to the intense training he completed with his expert handler, Greg, we are confident that the biosecurity on our islands will be greatly improved under his service.

“Protecting our seabirds and balancing our precious ecosystems is all of our responsibility as we face the climate and nature emergencies. We can help Jinx do his job properly by being vigilant to critters on our clothes, invasive species in our rucksacks or mammalian hunters who hitchhike a lift when we visit these islands. Please report anything suspicious immediately. Thank you to RSPB for your vital work in protecting our seabirds and all our partners who have worked together to make Jinx the UK’s first biosecurity dog.”

Senior marine policy officer, RSPB Cymru, Emily Williams said:  Biosecurity is a vital element of seabird conservation at a time when seabirds need our help more than ever. Coupled with the developing Welsh seabird conservation strategy and marine environmental planning, we can turn the tide for seabirds in Wales.”

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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