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Pioneering whio-sniffing dog Neo honoured after death

Neo, a whio-sniffing dog who was one of the founding conservation dogs in New Zealand, has been honoured by the Department of Conservation after he died this month, aged 15.

Conservation dog Neo with two whio. Source: Supplied

The German short-haired pointer has travelled the country tracking down whio, the native duck species featured on New Zealand's $10 note.

Neo helped the rangers keep track of the whio numbers, as well as finding nests with eggs that can be used in captive breeding programmes, the Department of Conservation says.

His family will be following in his pawsteps, with grandson Beau already certified as a whio detection dog and his great-grandson Max in training.

Handler Andy Glaser says Neo's first encounter with whio was on the Te Waiiti River, in Te Urewera, and it didn't quite go as expected.

"As we both sat on the side of the river together, the gentle breeze suddenly shifted and brought the scent of whio to his nose and he went into a sitting point," he says.

Neo, his grandson Beau and his great-grandson Max. Source: Neo the Whio Dog / Facebook

"However, not being an easy posture to hold sitting; he gradually toppled over like a felled tree, rigid as a board even when he hit the ground. 

"But he gracefully got back up again and switched to a straight foreleg point."

Neo was also popular at schools and public events, showing off his powerful nose by tracking a single feather kids would hide, Mr Glaser says.

The Department of Conservation says Neo will be "sorely missed" by his human family and all those who loved him.

He died at his Ōpōtiki home earlier this month, aged 15, his handler remembering him as loyal, gentle and "stoic to the end".