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A Poop-Sniffing Rescue Dog: Saving Endangered Killer Whales



Quick Smiles:

  • Eba, an abandoned puppy, finds her purpose as a poop-sniffing rescue dog.
  • She helps researchers study endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
  • Eba’s incredible sense of smell aids in collecting vital information for conservation efforts.

Meet Eba, a dog with an extraordinary sense of smell. Though she may not be a superhero, her incredible power has been put to good use. As a puppy, Eba was abandoned outside an animal shelter in Sacramento, California. Staff members found her cold and wet, unsure if she would survive. But she did, and now she’s using her nose to help save an endangered species!

Eba’s high-energy personality and obsession with toys didn’t make her the ideal pet for families seeking a calm companion. However, it made her the perfect match for Dr. Deborah Giles, a researcher at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology. It was a delightful coincidence when Deborah adopted Eba and discovered she would make an excellent detection dog!

Deborah studies Southern Resident killer whales near the Canadian Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands in Washington. These whales are endangered, so scientists like Deborah collect and analyze their feces as part of conservation efforts. “That’s where the dog comes in because they can smell these things from a mile away – literally a mile away,” she told Today.

In 2019, Deborah took Eba on a test run for Conservation Canines, a program that trains shelter dogs to detect wildlife feces. The toy-oriented pups are easy to train, as they’re rewarded with play sessions. Eba did such a fantastic job that she correctly detected a sample on her second day!

You might wonder why whale poop is so important. It’s simple: it provides researchers with information about the whales’ health, stress levels, and the environmental factors affecting their populations. This crucial data helps scientists collaborate with policymakers to improve conditions for the whales. The only challenge is that samples can be hard to find and collect.

That’s where Eba comes in! When she detects the scent of feces, she immediately alerts her team by whining and pointing them in the right direction. If the researchers miss it, she redirects them until they spot the sample in the water.

“She’s really the perfect dog for this work,” Deborah added. “She’s helping answer questions that will go to recovering an endangered species of beloved animals.”


What an amazing dog! From being rescued herself to working on saving an entire species, Eba has proven to be a valuable asset to conservation efforts – and a furry hero!