Dogs are trained to track many, many things. Drugs, guns, prey -- but turtles? That is the case for Koda, an Australian shepherd mix.
Koda has been specifically trained to track and find eastern box turtles, which are a locally rare species in Massachusetts due to habitat loss. After a year of training, Koda got to test her her abilities in Franklin Park in late August -- and succeeded quite well!
One of her trainers went out to find turtles to make sure that Koda could find some live species, five in total, and Koda found all of them, and also one that her trainer hadn't found.
"Koda will be an invaluable team member as she will assist us in more quickly and accurately locating these turtles that we are working so hard to protect," said Christine, one of her trainers.
When Koda is not out in Franklin Park, she's a frequent zoo visitor, going on walks through the zoo several days a week in between her training and play sessions. If you're at the zoo keep an eye out for her in her bright "Turtle Dog" vest!
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Turtle dog on the job! After almost a year of training and learning how to track box turtles, 1.5 year old Australian shepherd mix, Koda, joined Zoo New England’s Grassroots Wildlife Conservation (GWC) team in the field for the first time on August 25. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Up until this first field adventure, Koda’s training had involved finding empty turtle shells, so this was a big step for the pup! Here’s more from one of Koda’s trainers, Christine: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “This visit to the field was the next step in Koda’s training. Typically, her training involves finding an old empty turtle shell scented with turtle bedding, so this was the first time that she encountered a living turtle! Julie, from GWC, had gone out ahead of time to make sure there were some turtles nearby for Koda to find. We wanted to set her up for success for her first time in the field. At first, Koda was a little bit nervous seeing a live turtle … it moves! Upon closer inspection, Koda realized the turtles were harmless, and she was eager to find more. Koda found six turtles on her first day in the field, which was very impressive. Julie had found five turtles ahead of time, so the sixth turtle Koda found all on her own! Koda will be continuing her training both at the Zoo, and in the field sites. The eastern box turtle is a locally rare and declining species here in Massachusetts due to habitat loss. Koda will be an invaluable team member as she will assist us in more quickly and accurately locating these turtles that we are working so hard to protect. She’s making great progress and we can’t wait to see her in action as she gets more and more confident!” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Learn more about Koda at zoonewengland.org/turtledog ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #ZooNewEngland #GrassrootsWildlifeConservation #EasternBoxTurtle #BoxTurtle #TurtleConservation #DogsOfInstagram