UOG team enlists former shelter dogs and handlers in new fight against invasive pest
Former shelter dogs are getting a new purpose, and their handlers have found new jobs, thanks to a federal grant awarded through the University of Guam.
The $866,423 Department of the Interior grant supported training of the four former shelter dogs and their handlers, the salaries of employees in the team, the construction of a kennel, caring for the dogs, and other costs related to establishing Guam’s first coconut rhinoceros beetle-detecting canine team specifically for sniffing outbound cargo. All transactions were supported by the Research Corporation of UOG.
The canine team became operational this week, said Dr. Glenn Dulla, Assistant Professor, and Plant Pathologist, Western Pacific Tropical Research Center at UOG. Dr. Dulla is the principal investigator for the grant.
A ceremony on April 28 at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall marked the canines’ and their handlers’ graduation from training. The dogs and their handlers received flower leis. The handlers also received certificates as they were joined by family, friends, and dignitaries.
U.S. and Guam Department of Agriculture representatives also attended the event. USDA provided training for the dogs and their handlers under a contract paid for with the grant.
Previously, there was a canine team that helped detect mass numbers of coconut rhinoceros beetles in the pest's breeding grounds, Dr. Dulla said.
This is the first canine team for Guam that has the capability to detect as small as a single adult rhinoceros beetle in cargo, Dr. Dulla said.
“We are the first team to be able to identify (coconut rhinoceros beetle) adults in a cargo environment,” Dr. Dulla said.
The team’s mission is regional in its impact, Dr. Dulla said.
The canine team checks cargo being shipped from Guam to Saipan, Yap and other Western Pacific Islands that don’t have the beetle infestation, said Dr. Dulla.
In Guam, the infestation has left a trail of damaged or destroyed coconut palms.
One of the dogs, Nå’i, is a 1-year-old Guam boonie mix from the Guam Animals in Need shelter.
The rest of the dogs are from Hawaii.
Elvis, a 3-year-old labrador/pointer mix, came from Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Maui is a 3-year-old labrador/pitbull mix from the Fur Angel Foundation in Hawaii. Penny, a 1-year-old labrador retriever, came from a family in Hawaii.
Elvis is partnered with handler Mary "Ally" Worcester; Louise Baza handles detector dog Na'i; Tristen Lizama is with detector dog Maui; and Garrett Certeza is the handler for detector dog Penny.
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