Home Business The first team of anti Xylella dogs presented in Brindisi: the “Detection Dogs” identify the disease before the development of symptoms

The first team of anti Xylella dogs presented in Brindisi: the “Detection Dogs” identify the disease before the development of symptoms

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From drug dogs to … anti-Xylella dogs. It happens in Puglia where the first national task force was officially born, strictly on all fours, to find in advance the outbreaks of the bacterium that – for years – has been attacking the olive trees of the region. The special dog team consists of two Jack Russels, a Belgian Malinois, a hound, a Labrador Retriever and an English Springer Spaniel. They are called Lulù, Snoopy, Onda, Ocra, Paco and Ellis and are the members of the XDD, the Xylella Detection Dogs, able to identify the dangerous pathogen by identifying the specific odor with respect to all the samples used. The youngest is over 2 years old, the oldest is 10. Some of them are already engaged in other environmental conservation projects. For everyone it is a game, after which they know they will have their reward. They have been trained to identify Xylella-infected plants early, even before the more easily recognizable symptoms appear.

This morning, in the countryside of Fasano, in the province of Brindisi, it was possible to see them in action. A work of research and “nose” in exchange for an affectionate gesture – such as a greedy snack – or a caress. Collaborating in the research project entitled “Training and use of dog units in the early detection of Xylella fastidiosa” were the national body of the Italian dog lovers (Enci), Unaprol, Coldiretti and CNR-IPSP (the institute for the sustainable protection of plant). The activities began last summer, as early as June, using specimens already experts in the field of detection. Range of action is Salento where, in the initial phase, the ability of animals to recognize Xylella in infected plants as well as in artificial culture plates was tested. The selective training is based on a real international protocol – the same one used for dogs that look for mines – for each level of advancement, it provides for the achievement of a level of accuracy of 100%. You can’t go wrong with this emergency. Coldiretti traces the numbers of the disaster: destruction of 21 million olive trees, damage for a billion, an infected area of ​​over 8 thousand square kilometers. And now we are also addressing those who are considered, par excellence, man’s best friends. «They have been trained with a target odor which is that of red rubber – explains Serena Donnini, Enci trainer – which they really like and are therefore inclined to look for. We teach the dog how to behave when it smells: it is a passive signal, with the nose pointed towards the tree. The animal searches because it knows it will have a reward. We pass from the target smell to the final smell, through a motivational work where the plant is connected to play or food ».

With the bacterium we try to play in advance. The dogs will be used in territorial monitoring, inside nurseries, in ports, airports and borders as hubs for importing plants from abroad. “This is the first pilot initiative – explains Coldiretti Puglia – to develop new actions to prevent the spread of alien diseases and insects which, following climate change and commercial globalization, increasingly cross borders to arrive in Italy where they cause enormous losses to the environment, biodiversity and national agri-food heritage with damage to employment and the economy “. Meanwhile, other cases of the disease have also been identified in France, Spain, Germany and Portugal. An emergency which, according to the alarm of the trade associations, is progressing dangerously, threatening other regions of Italy as well. Hence the awareness that the speed in identifying outbreaks becomes crucial to immediately eliminate the new centers of spread of the disease, born from the importation of some tropical plants from Latin America.

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