Zoos Use Trained Dog to Uncover Bear Pregnancies

Geo Beats
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The Cincinnati Zoo has taken the lead to employ a 2-year-old beagle named Elvis who completed 1 year of special training to identify pregnancies in endangered polar bears.


Dogs have been trained for everything from leading the blind to sniffing out illegal drugs. So, why not detecting pregnant bears? The Cincinnati Zoo has taken the lead to employ a 2-year-old beagle named Elvis who completed 1 year of special training to identify pregnancies in endangered polar bears. About a dozen other zoos have submitted samples for Elvis to evaluate.

Even more zoos across the country may soon use Elvis’ non-invasive services also. As the Toledo Zoo’s Randi Meyerson said, “It’s always nice to know in advance.” The bears’ size makes it difficult to confirm pregnancies. Females should be separated from the males, given extra cushions, and monitored around the clock so zookeepers can be ready to assist.

As far as how Elvis performs his duties, he identifies specific proteins only found in pregnant bears. He smells fecal matter samples and sits down as he’s been trained to if he smells the protein.

Trainers used food and playtime toys to reward Elvis for predicting bear pregnancy with almost perfect accuracy. The first of a batch of stool samples delivered by Cincinnati Zoo was from a bear who had already delivered and Elvis correctly confirmed the bear had been pregnant.

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