Japan introduces fire ant detection dogs on a trial basis as Ministry of the Environment explores introduction of detection dogs to combat invasive species



Yomiuri Shimbun
A sniffer dog sits alerting a trainer to the presence of fire ants in a can during a demonstration at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Sunday.

Dogs could be the next step in Japan’s efforts to fight fire ants.

Two beagles at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, were tested on Sunday to see if they could detect dead fire ants.

When the dogs passed a container containing a dead ant, they sat down and alerted people to the presence of the ant.

The demonstration conducted by the Ministry of the Environment was made available to the press.

Earlier this month, the ministry invited sniffer dogs and officials from Taiwan to carry out a series of tests, and Taiwan already has sniffer dogs that can sniff out fire ants.

Fire ants are native to South America and have highly poisonous stings. Fire ants were first confirmed in Japan in June 2017, and since then 110 cases have been sighted in 18 prefectures, including Tokyo.

In Japan, it is often found in harbor ditches. There are growing concerns that they may settle in the country.

Detection dogs are expected to efficiently detect fire ant populations.

“Fire ants have a sense of smell that allows them to sniff out fire ants that live underground,” says Hironori Sakamoto, a senior researcher at the institute.

In April, the ministry designated fire ants as a specified invasive species that requires emergency response, further strengthening border control measures.

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