Lifestyle Pets Rhode Island Zoo Working with Trained Search Dog Named Newt to Help Track and Save Turtles A fox red Labrador retriever named Newt is using "his incredible snout to help check on some of our local turtle populations," the Roger Williams Park Zoo shared By Stephanie Wenger Stephanie Wenger Instagram Twitter Stephanie Wenger is a TV Writer/Reporter at PEOPLE. She joined the brand in 2021 as digital news writer, spanning across the site's verticals. She previously contributed to E! Online, HollywoodLife, Discover Los Angeles, Oscar.com and Hollywood.com. She appeared on air at AfterBuzz TV. She began her journalism career as an intern at Good Morning America and Access Hollywood. She graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's in communications and received a Master's in journalism from the University of Southern California. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 13, 2022 05:44 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Roger Williams Park Zoo The Roger Williams Park Zoo is calling upon a four-legged friend to help with turtle conservation in Rhode Island. A one-year-old fox red Labrador retriever named Newt is using "his incredible snout to help check on some of our local turtle populations," the zoo, located in Providence, Rhode Island, told PEOPLE. The conservation effort is led by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) in partnership with the Roger Williams Park Zoo, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, and the University of Rhode Island. "He was originally trained to find different species of toad, and so we got started working on the turtles in the fall," Julia Sirois, Newt's handler, told WJAR. "He had a rough start with it, but we're really proud of him now because once we got into spring and they were moving around again, he was able to quickly pick it up." Roger Williams Park Zoo Loggerhead Turtle Lays Over 100 Eggs After Recovering From 'Severe' Shark Attack at Miami Zoo In addition to Sirois, Hannah Duphy and Dr. Kris Hoffman, in collaboration with the Canine College Training at St. Lawrence University, also trained Newt, the zoo told PEOPLE. Newt can locate turtles in areas that are not easily accessible to humans. "He can get into the areas where we can't as people. I'm not going to crawl through thorn bushes, but the dog doesn't care because if he finds a turtle, he gets his ball," Sirois added. "And at the end of the day, it's all he wants." Roger Williams Park Zoo Rescue Sea Turtle in National Aquarium's Care Receives Acupuncture to Treat Injured Jaw DEM state herpetologist Scott Buchanan told ecoRI News that Newt is taking part in a six-week study that will help determine if dogs can aid in turtle conservation research. "We're two weeks into this, and I would say, already we can be certain that Newt is proficient at finding turtles," Buchanan said. "Whether Newt will be ultimately more proficient than just a team of people doing visual encounter surveys is one of the questions that we want to try to answer, and we are framing the work around that question." He added, "Having another team out there with a dog is just an opportunity to learn more. It's an opportunity to potentially identify new populations and to learn more about existing populations." Baltimore Shelter Caring for 'Big Guy' Snapping Turtle After Reptile Turns Up in City Gutter The research project aims to collect "invaluable data" about Rhode Island turtle populations, including movements and habitat use, the zoo told PEOPLE. The new conservation effort comes as turtle populations continue to decrease. "We see a lot of mortality in turtles this time of year, and sadly, it's all female turtles carrying the next generation, and now sadly we have a poaching crisis," Lou Perrotti, director of conservation programs at Roger Williams Park Zoo, told WJAR. "The future of these turtles could look bleak. I mean, we'll have very endangered populations, and in certain cases, we could lose populations," he added.