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Spaniels Rocky and Arnie have been trained by detection dog specialists Wagtail UK to find and protect great crested newts. Network Rail teams in Hitchin have called in the detective duo ahead of essential maintenance work taking place next month. The innovative idea has already been trialled by Natural England.
Great crested newts are a protected species usually found in ponds, woodland or on grassland.
But sometimes they make it onto worksites which can cause delay projects, as the animals must then be trapped and moved safely to a suitable habitat away from where the work is taking place.
Great crested newts are protected by law due to drastic decline in their numbers over the last century.
The idea is that the detective dogs can cover a large area much faster than humans and accurately detect any newts – saving both time and money.
Following a good sniff on the railway and around the worksite, neither Rocky nor Arnie found any evidence of great crested newts, meaning the essential work can be carried out as planned.
Steve Hughes, Programme Director for Network Rail, said: “It’s amazing to see how quickly Rocky and Arnie managed to cover the worksite in Hitchin and check if there were any great crested newts.
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“This method will save valuable time and reduce delays to vital improvements to the railway.
“As we work to protect the environment and increase biodiversity near the railway, the detection dogs will help us protect great crested newts, so they can then be moved to suitable habitats.”
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