09 May

Goggles for Google: Lessons in avoiding snakes

Google the Dog

Several months ago we shared a story about Google the dog, who has been undergoing training in Costa Rica through the Hablemos de Perros organization to become a jaguar scat-detecting dog for Panthera. Google was successfully certified in January as an official jaguar scat-detecting dog by the Miami K-9 Academy. Over the past few weeks, Google’s owner, Carlos Orozco, has introduced ‘the ultimate search engine’, who serves as a critical tool in conserving jaguars by efficiently finding jaguar scat (important DNA), to the second phase of his life-saving training – snake avoidance.

After equipping Google with goggles and booties (that he wears with pride), Carlos uses a medium-sized, non-venomous boa constrictor, shown above, to familiarize Google with the look and smell of this animal that he will most likely encounter in the forests while doing his job. He is also currently using a training collar that is programmed to vibrate when Google wanders too close to the snake. Google is being trained to protect himself from the very venomous fer-de-lance –a snake which is frequently found in the thick rainforests of Costa Rica and other jaguar range states.

Watch clips of Google’s snake avoidance training here and here.

Before Google was introduced to Panthera, our jaguar scientists would often spend days on end searching for jaguar scat buried in the dense rainforests of Costa Rica. Now, however, Google’s scat searches take just minutes to complete, after which he sits and is rewarded with his favorite toy - a large, red, and apparently yummy-tasting ball.

Once this jaguar scat is located, it is packaged up and sent on to the genetic laboratories at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the University of Costa Rica to be analyzed. These analyses provide Panthera’s scientists with critical information about the movements, genetic diversity, abundance, and diets of jaguars in this region.

Thankfully, Google is now a part of the Panthera team and will vastly improve the efficiency of Panthera’s jaguar conservation initiatives in Costa Rica.

Learn more about Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative and visit the Panthera Costa Rica website.

See more photos of Google’s training.

More Articles and Videos of Google’s training

Miami Herald

La Hoja de Almendro