Introducing Holly: Aotearoa's first-ever native New Zealand frog dog

New Zealand has just got its first frog dog. She's called Holly - and she's just been certified to scent-track New Zealand's three endangered native species of frog.

Dogs being used as part of a search party is nothing new, but what five-year-old Holly has been tasked with, sets her apart from the pack.

"She's the first-ever native New Zealand frog dog and the first dog to be trained to find frogs in New Zealand," dog handler Debbie Bishop said.

Holly has been trained to help with noninvasive population monitoring and surveying of New Zealand's three native frog species.

"They haven't really changed in millions of years. They're different to the introduced frogs; they don't have any external eardrum and they don't croak, they communicate by scent, and they have a round eye, not a slit eye like other frogs," said animal facility manager Nikita Woodhead.

The endangered frogs used to be widespread, but they're now confined to remote areas.

"Some of the main threats would be introduced predators like rats and possums, cats, apparently tuatara eat them," Woodhead said.

Other dangers include logging, tramping and people handling them.

Holly will help to inform effective species conservation and management plans. She's been honing her skills over the past three years using a circuit at Otago University's zoology department. It's got planks with holes and containers under which frogs in little pottles are planted. She tracks them using scent.

"She can sit and point and she holds that point until I come and check, yes there is a frog here, and reward her," Bishop said.

"It allows us to have another tool in the toolbox for conservation."

Holly hasn't gone bush yet - that's not until frog season in September. So for now, she'll be sharpening up her skills with rock piles, pungas and leaf litter.