Minister for Climate Change Julie James met Jinx the biosecurity dog today, whom she has tasked with a special mission to protect Wales’ seabirds.
Welsh Government has provided £250,000 as part of a new project which will expand biosecurity for Wales and includes using Jinx, a three-year-old working cocker spaniel who is the UK’s first conservation detection dog. He has been in training with RSPB for the last two years to sniff out rats. When left undisturbed, invasive species can cause devastation to already threatened seabird species.
That’s why Jinx’ job is so important. A single pregnant rat can produce a colony of over 300 in just eight months. Rats are expert hunters and would quickly eat eggs, chicks and even adult birds.
Wales’ coastline is globally important for breeding seabirds. More than half of the world’s manx shearwater nest underground in burrows on islands that dot our shores. However, the seabirds are in trouble. A recent Birds of Conservation Concern in Wales report highlighted how vital it is to protect Puffins, Kittiwakes, Black-headed Gulls, and Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns.
Though the iconic puffin has achieved a population boom in Wales in recent years thanks to conservation efforts, globally, their unstable numbers put them on the IUCN Red List.
Climate change, invasive species, unsustainable fisheries, marine development and pandemics- such as the recent Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI) which killed more than 5000 gannets on Grassholm Island last year- all threaten the survival of these birds.
Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:
I was delighted to meet Jinx today who I have no doubt will deliver the mission we have tasked him with – to protect Wales’ seabirds from rats and other mammalian predators. Thanks to the intense training he completed with his expert handler, Greg, we are confident that the biosecurity on our islands will be greatly improved under his service.
Protecting our seabirds and balancing our precious ecosystems is all of our responsibility as we face the climate and nature emergencies. We can help Jinx do his job properly by being vigilant to critters on our clothes, invasive species in our rucksacks or mammalian hunters who hitchhike a lift when we visit these islands. Please report anything suspicious immediately. Thank you to RSPB for your vital work in protecting our seabirds and all our partners who have worked together to make Jinx the UK’s first biosecurity dog.
Senior Marine Policy Officer, RSPB Cymru, Emily Williams said:
We are delighted that Jinx will be continuing his work on biosecurity through this new project, which builds upon the work of Biosecurity for LIFE. Biosecurity is a vital element of seabird conservation, at a time when seabirds need our help more than ever. Coupled with the developing welsh seabird conservation strategy and marine environmental planning, we can turn the tide for seabirds in Wales.