Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: September 30, 2022

Two sniffer dogs will search for fruit fly larvae in orchards across South Australia’s Riverland, as part of a month-long trial to eradicate the pest.

South Australia has long prided itself on its fruit fly-free status, but has been hit by a spate of outbreaks in recent years.

Authorities hope the dogs, Max and Rylee, will be able to detect fruit fly larvae “hotspots” by scent, which will spare fruit from being cut open and destroyed.

They will begin their work in October, coinciding with harvesting season.

Training the dogs involved hiding sterile larvae secured in a mesh bag, which was then buried in the ground or hung from trees in an orchard.

Detection dog trainer Gemma Wood said the odour of larvae was paired with a reward and Max and Rylee were trained to “drop” if they have found it.

“Emotionally we see the dogs get quite happy with themselves because they know what’s coming next,” she said.

Ms Wood said the project held personal significance for herself and her dad Danny, also a detection dog trainer.

“Danny and I are Riverland residents – we were born and raised in Loxton, which makes this project so much more special to us.

Dogs experienced in detection

Danny Wood said German shepherd Rylee had always worked in search, beginning with missing persons.

“We’ve now transitioned into something that’s very important to us locally,” he said.

“Max was previously trained to do human remains detection – she could find a single human’s tooth in a few acres in no time at all.”

Minister for Primary Industries, Clare Scriven, said the dogs would be employed on an ongoing basis if the trial was successful.

“Finding Queensland fruit fly larvae early is important in preventing it from spreading and becoming established,” she said.

“Teams currently find larvae by searching fruit trees for signs of fruit fly damage and cutting fruit open to inspect further.

“The detector dogs will potentially enhance this good work by helping to identify possible hotspots in large areas of land much faster.

“They’ll be put to work in the Riverland, which is where we’ve got 15 outbreaks of fruit fly.

“It’s really important that we focus in the Riverland area so that we can restore the pest-free status that is so important for our primary producers in terms of accessing world markets.”