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National Highways Calls in Sniffer Dogs to Junction 10

Published on: 22 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 24 Nov, 2023

Fenix at work on the M25 J10 site

In an effort to tackle invasive Japanese knotweed on their M25 junction 10 upgrade, National Highways has enlisted the help of some four-legged friends.

Known for its aggressive growth and resilience, Japanese knotweed can shoot to over 2.1m high, suppressing all other plant growth.

National Highways called on three highly trained, tail-wagging sniffer dogs – Fenix the Dutch Shepherd, and Spaniels Nica and Nettle – to root out the havoc-wreaking weed and prevent it spreading.

The specially trained dogs help by detecting the rhizomes, the underground parts of the plant such as roots, bulbs, and shoots, the removal of which prevents any spread or re-growth.

Young cocker spaniel Nettle on her shift

Explaining the unique approach, Pippa Jordan, the environment lead on the M25 J10 improvement scheme, said: “Conservation plays an important role in our construction projects. Before we start, we create a map of the area which shows nearby plant species allowing us to tackle any invasive species growing on the construction site.

“These sniffer dogs are not only adorable, but also incredibly skilled at detecting the presence of unwanted plants, especially those not readily visible.”

If not found and dealt with, the plant can cause serious problems to buildings and structures. It’s also an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to allow these invasive plant species to spread in the wild, which is why National Highways called in the canine specialists to help solve the issue.

When the dogs detect Japanese knotweed, they freeze to alert their handler. This allows swift action to eradicate the plant and prevent further spread.

Nica – a springer spaniel – looking mucky after her work

Kat Janczur, owner and handler at Canine Detection Solutions, said: “The dogs have got the most amazing sense of smell, and they can pick up the scent that Japanese knotweed rhizome gives off into the soil. They’re amazing animals and a great tool in efforts to prevent the spread of these invasive plants on and around the site.”

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