The Conservation Conversation

Celebrating the First Year

Mark and Lou Conservation Dogs

In September 2016, Kiwibank partnered with the Department of Conservation to support the Conservation Dogs Programme. In its first year, we helped fund two full-time dog-handlers and built a robust advocacy programme. Now we’re partnering up with DOC for a second year to continue to support these canine heroes who find our protected species and help catch unwanted pests. And this is all happening in line with New Zealand’s Conservation Week. Perfect timing if we do say so ourselves.

Hot dog! What a partnership

So how does a bank pair up with a leading governmental organisation dedicated to making a difference? Easy when it's partnership formed because both Kiwibank and DOC are strong values-based organisations. Pete Barton, DOC’s Partnership Development Manager says, 

“DOC’s new direction in partnering led us to look to work with New Zealand’s leading influential brands like Kiwibank - it felt like a natural fit.” 

Together both organisations feel a pride in our country and a strong sense of responsibility to do something about looking after it. “We both felt a sense of power and passion to take on the challenges we face together, and we have a shared goal of restoring our natural heritage.”

Working together has helped DOC strengthen it's island biosecurity programme because it has been able to double the amount of quarantine and surveillance work with the dogs. Thanks to the success of this partnership, conservation dogs have had a greater presence at ferry terminals and marinas, helping educate boat owners and travellers about the need to watch out for rodent stowaways. Pete believes that DOC has also been able to leverage Kiwibank’s reach into every community to get conservation and predator-free messages out to a wider audience. “Our partnership with Kiwibank enables us to build on our core conservation work resulting in more being done to protect ecosystems and species.” Regan Savage, Kiwibank's GM of Marketing Communications says,  

“We have a shared ambition to restore our native heritage and enable our native species to thrive." 

"Our partnership with the DOC Conservation Dogs programme and supporting the important work they do embodies our purpose of Kiwis Making Kiwis Better Off.”

Goals, hopes, and dreams

You may not know it, but Kiwi dogs are already world famous. The Conservation Dogs Programme is internationally renowned for its success, so much so that dogs and their handlers travel to other countries like Japan, to help train teams. According to Pete, they intend to build on this momentum. “Our goals are to continue to unleash the potential of our Conservation Dogs team in order to keep our offshore islands and mainland sanctuaries pest free.” In addition to this, Pete says that protecting and restoring our nature and endangered species such as kiwi, kea and kākāpō is paramount.

What success looks like

The main threat facing our native birds and wildlife comes from introduced predators like rats, stoats and possums. To make a difference to our ecosystem, we need to do our best to make NZ predator free. The Conservation Dogs Programme is just one part of the solution – other measures that DOC is committed to includeare landscape scale predator control and trapping.

Pete explains that DOC has two types of dogs – pest detection dogs and species detection dogs. Pest detection dogs carry out quarantine and surveillance work which helps keep our islands and mainland sanctuaries pest free. Pest detection dogs are small and agile. They can detect rodents and stoats in places that people can’t easily reach. 

Protected species detection dogs help manage populations of endangered species by locating birds for example, so DOC can monitor them, carry out health checks, collect their eggs for hand rearing and translocate them to other areas. 

“Four out of five of our native birds are classified as threatened or vulnerable." 

"DOC’s partnership with Kiwibank means we can use conservation dogs more often to work with threatened species to reverse their decline and carry out more translocations.” And he’s got the data to prove it: Since the partnership began there have been the following increases:

●        21% in surveillance

●        35% in quarantine inspections

●        175% in dog handlers trained

●        420% in advocacy events

How the partnership works

In total, Kiwibank funds a Species Detection Dog Co-ordinator and four pest detection dog handlers. The handlers are located in Wellington, Auckland, Whitianga and Whangarei. While we’ve only been supporting this programme for a short time, well trained dog-handler teams have been used for conservation for more than 40 years.

There are four new puppies that Kiwibank is funding that will play a big part in the Conservation Dogs Programme’s succession plan. Ensuring we have new dogs coming on as some of our dogs are approaching retirement. Two pups will be based in Auckland, one in Warkworth and one in Wellington. 

Photo by Department of Conservation

Geoff Ensor, DOC's Director of Commercial Partnerships believes that “This partnership is a powerful example of what can be achieved when two significant organisations link arms and work towards a common cause."

"In a short time, we’ve formed friendships, cemented strong working relationships, and delivered conservation work that is making a visible and important contribution to New Zealand’s nature.” 

According to Geoff, the recent one-year-on partnership event last week highlighted the alignment of values between DOC and Kiwibank. Both organisations have a shared desire to make a real and positive difference for New Zealanders. Ridding New Zealand of introduced predators is a bold and gutsy challenge, one that we hope inspires Kiwis to support.

The Conservation Dogs and their talented handlers are active all over New Zealand. You might be lucky enough to meet them at wharfs, ferry terminals, island and mainland sanctuaries, in the national parks or perhaps even at your local Kiwibank branch so keep an eye out when you're exploring our backyard!

Want to find out more? Stay up to date with the programme by visiting the Dog Programme sectio

n on DOC's website or check out Kiwibank’s social media channels.