Sit. Stay. Save a Cheetah.

Zookeeper's Scat Detection Dog Works to Save Cheetahs


Assistant curator Chris Bartos’ rescued border collie, Finn, is the first ever scat detection dog at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia. Finn is trained to sniff out cheetah scat (poop) in order to track the cats’ movements. Data collected is ultimately used to inform cheetah conservation strategies. Several years ago, Bartos traveled with Finn to Africa, where she helped CCF staff learn how to work with the dog to search for and indicate scat.

Thanks to funding from the Jonathan Gilmour Memorial Scholarship Fund, Bartos traveled to Namibia in December 2016 to check in on Finn, work on training plans for CCF's new dogs, and work with staff. While at CCF, Bartos conducted two training classes for the interns – one focused on the scat dog program, and the other focused on clicker training. Because of the mid-day heat, mornings and evenings were best suited to working with Finn on his scat detection training.
“He trusts me as a partner, and I trust him,” Bartos said of Finn, who she said recognized her right away.
While in Namibia, Bartos also had the opportunity to go on a night drive where she saw animals including African crested porcupines, genets, jackals, aardwolves and leopards.
“It was my first time going out on a night drive. In December, a lot of the farmers go on vacation. It’s important to have a presence and let the poachers know that the rounds are being done,” Bartos said.


Notes from the Field

BartoscheetahsDecember 17, 2016

Today is my last full day here at CCF and I'm enjoying every minute that I'm here. Trying to wrap up some of my training plans for the dogs, doing as many things as I can fit in, and of course enjoying the CHEETAHS - like these two ambassadors that were raised from tiny cubs. CCF is an amazing place full of dedicated people who work endlessly to help save the wild cheetah. I'm so glad to be a part of it!


Bartosfinn2December 13, 2016

Staying busy here at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. I have mainly been working with the dogs- both the scat dogs and the livestock guarding dogs like Firat here. I gave a presentation to the interns and staff on scat detection dogs and will be doing a training seminar tomorrow. I got to watch a couple of cheetah runs, help with daily feeding, go on game counts and night anti- poaching patrols. Saw some interesting species such as aardwolves, genets, gemsbok, red hartebeest, bat eared foxes and mongoose. Still lots more to see and do!!


BartosfinnDecember 7, 2016

“Been busy so far evaluating the dogs and helping work on training plans for them. Great to see Finn again! He's looking good for an old man (almost 10). We're back to walking aroun3d the property again. Nothing like walking on the trails and watching the wildlife around you. Went on a game count this evening - lots of fun! Saw one of the black rhinos, which is an unusual occurrence. Saw lots of Kori bustards, steenbok and even a tiny jackal pup. Will be going on a night drive on Friday and hope to see porcupines!”


Bartos is also the Regional North American Studbook Keeper and SSP Coordinator for African crested porcupines.

Visit our Keeper's Corner to learn more about Bartos' original trip to Namibia with Finn.