Wellington Scoop

Dog owners invited to “lead the way” to protect native wildlife

Press Release – Department of Conservation
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is adopting new tactics to protect wildlife by encouraging dog owners to better control their dogs on beaches and coastlines.

Dog owners can become wildlife certified after completing a short online quiz. They will then receive an exclusive link to purchase one of the four Lead the Way leads in a collaboration with Traffic Light Bandanas.

The colour of the lead highlights their dog’s behaviour. Using the lead lets other dog walkers know whether the pup is friendly (green), cautious (orange) or would prefer to keep to themselves (red). There is even an option for blind or deaf dogs (yellow).

Dog owners are encouraged to share the beach and ensure they keep space between dogs and wildlife. Several endangered species, including rāpoka (NZ sea lion), kekeno (NZ fur seal), kororā (little penguin) and hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) are at risk from dog attacks.

Lead the Way is an initiative which aims to promote responsible dog ownership and reduce negative dog interactions with coastal wildlife.

“As populations start to recover, these endangered species are showing up unexpectedly on beaches more often, even around coastal cities like Wellington and Dunedin,” says Community Ranger, Jesikah Triscott. “There’s a huge amount of wildlife around coastlines and harbours which largely goes unseen, but their unique smell attracts curious dogs.

“This is a threat to species that is within our control. We want dog owners to know that it’s possible to share the beach, but it’s important that dogs are either on a lead or trained to be called back quickly.”

Marine Science Advisor Laura Boren sees benefits for both dogs and wildlife.

“Interactions with kekeno and rāpoka can also be dangerous for dogs, so being better prepared on the beach means we can reduce the risks to both vulnerable species and dogs.”

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