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Meet Rocky, the dog trained to sniff out Great Crested Newts

PUBLISHED: 16:32 16 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:36 20 January 2017

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

tim george photographer

Anglian water employs dog which previously worked sniffing newts out on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

A Great Crested Newt and a cocker spaniel may not sound like a match made in heaven.

But thanks to Anglian Water’s new ‘newt sniffer dog’ Rocky, the protected species of newt is being recorded and made safe on Anglian Water’s future development sites.

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

The trained Conservation Dog was brought in by the water company in partnership with RPS Environmental Management Ltd ahead of some planned developments at their Water Recycling Centre in Chalton, Bedfordshire, to check the area around the site for the presence of the endangered species before building works commenced.

Rocky has previously worked on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, where he clambered through rubble to help unearth almost 2,000 animals in the path of the £178.5m road.

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

Aran Clyne, Rocky’s handler from specialist detection dog company Wagtail UK, said: “The principle is the same as that of other sniffer dogs who detect drugs, money or other illicit items. Rocky is trained to detect the scent of the Great Crested Newt and alert me so we can capture it and move it safely out of harms way.”

Traditionally, the Great Crested Newts would be trapped and relocated using simple pitfall traps (buckets sunk into the ground) left overnight. The species is highly protected under domestic and European Law due to their numbers falling markedly in recent years.

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

It is illegal to disturb them or damage their habitats without an appropriate licence from Natural England.

Before any development work can start on a site where the newts are potentially present, developers must undertake survey work and, if the newts are found to be present, subsequently trap newts at the development site and relocate them to a safe, suitable habitat nearby.

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

James Gilbert, Senior Ecologist, said: “Not many people realise the variety of wildlife we find at some of our sites, particularly the larger treatment centres. As a good amount of land on site often remains relatively undisturbed, they can attract and support a host of different species, including some notable and protected ones like the Great Crested Newt. This is why we’re always working to find new, innovative and better ways of protecting them, in collaboration with specialist companies like Wagtail UK, when we need to undertake improvement works.

“Using conservation dogs like Rocky in this way is brand new to Anglian Water and we hope it will set a president for future projects. We’re committed to protecting the environment which is why we’re investing £5million between now and 2020 doing just that and, why projects like this are so important to us. We’re still using conventional newt survey methods, but Rocky gives us an enhanced approach.

Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water Rocky the Dog that sniffs out Great Crested Newt for Anglian Water. Photo by Tim George for Anglian Water

“Also as part of the exercise, we’ll be creating two hibernacula – rubble and log piles capped with turf – for the newts to use as well as retaining the lagoons on site as important habitat for other local and county-wide wildlife, especially breeding and wintering birds.”

To read about Rocky’s previous work, visit: www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/spaniel_sniffs_out_protected_great_crested_newts_so_ndr_can_progress_1_4567460

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