Happy Scent Trails: Remembering Rusty
Category: National. Posted: 4 April 2022
Rusty the velvetleaf detection dog has passed away after a significant and trailblazing contribution to biosecurity in New Zealand.
Rusty won the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute’s Dave Galloway Award for Innovation in Biosecurity, in 2017, along with his human companion John Taylor.
Here is a reprint of the item documenting Rusty’s achievements which won him the recognition:
“John and Rusty have well and truly innovated in the field of pest plant surveillance and deserve this award for their work detecting velvetleaf.
When John read about the velvetleaf incursion, he thought his wonder dog trained for Search and Rescue could be put to good use for the Southland farmers who innocently received this devastating threat.
Funded by MPI to provide a proof of concept in only a few months, New Zealand now has a superior tool for crop and paddock inspection of known and potential velvetleaf infection zones.
John and Rusty work pasture and low growing crops to find velvetleaf plants. Depending on the wind and rain their abilities are well proven. With seventy-five meter swath widths, plants down to two leaves sub-canopy have been picked up. Ranging across paddocks at up to four hectares per hour the duo have found plants unfindable by previous human efforts and have proven invaluable to confirm the current number of infected paddocks in Southland, Waikato and the Horizons region.
This has proven the worth of thinking outside the box.
MPI and John have created a valuable tool for councils and others needing to find velvetleaf to enable early intervention and removal of plants before they seed.”
Rusty and John have since worked in most parts of New Zealand as part of Rusty’s velvetleaf hunting career.
As well as working together on velvetleaf John and Rusty had another very special connection. Rusty was his son Andrew’s dog, who John inherited, as a puppy, when Andrew died in an accident.
John is now working on other weed-seeking projects with Rusty’s companion, four-year-old heading dog, Wink. Such missions include seeking-out, among other pest plants, noogoora burr around Tauranga and the Waikato, and African love grass in the Canterbury foothills.
Happy scent trails Rusty, and thanks for the memories.