Cobra — Law Enforcement and Detection

Location: Largo, Florida

She doesn’t have a Ph.D., but Cobra helps scientists solve public health, agricultural and environmental challenges! The Belgian Malinois joined Florida International University 6 years ago, as part of research into a fungus destroying Florida’s avocado trees. After scientists isolated the fungus odor Cobra was imprinted on the scent, and began tracking down infected trees. She moves like a surfer riding a wave, running downwind and slowly working into the wind until locating her target. Cobra’s efforts helped farmers take action to preserve their crops.

Next the team deployed to Hawaii, on the hunt for Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death (ROD), a disease killing the state’s most abundant native tree species. Cobra’s arrival was welcomed as a sign of hope. Within a week Cobra began locating infected trees.

The biggest challenge was yet to come: COVID-19. Researchers pivoted, applying their skills to isolating the odor of the body’s response to the virus. Cobra pivoted too, adapting to indoor searches. She sweeps FIU’s classrooms, libraries and shared spaces, methodically analyzing odors, zeroing in and alerting, telling a story from beginning to end. A positive alert triggers sanitation, ensuring students and staff are safe.

But Cobra’s not all business. She has a gentle personality, loves visiting grade schools, and belly scratches are her favorite.

Cobra’s exceptional in every way, and always ready to do her best, for the best causes.

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