We already know that dogs are incredible animals. Some are trained to assist officers in fighting crime. Others aid disabled children and adults in overcoming health challenges. Still more are trained to support veterans suffering from PTSD. Some utilize their keen sense of smell to detect everything from bombs to breast cancer.
Now, in Australia, there is a dog that is helping other animals survive the country’s devastating wildfire crisis, which has already claimed the lives of 25,000 koalas, with the numbers still rising, posing a threat to the survival of this native species.
However, Bear, a Border Collie/Koolie cross and a “koala detection dog,” has been trained to sniff out koalas residing in areas that have been previously burnt or are at high risk, where the slow-moving bears often struggle to escape the approaching fire.
Koalas also inhabit eucalyptus trees, which are highly flammable and burn rapidly, often resulting in the animals perishing where they live. This is a devastating development for a species that is already endangered due to habitat loss and climate change.
Nonetheless, koalas have the ability to survive for weeks after a fire, as stated by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the organization that trained Bear for his current role. However, any koalas that do survive will find themselves in a dire situation: burned, suffering from smoke inhalation, displaced from their homes, and clinging desperately to branches that are now devoid of edible leaves.
Thankfully, Bear has been trained to detect living koalas by the scent of their fur, which is a life-saving skill. Even in burnt trees stripped of foliage, these camouflaged creatures are challenging to spot with the naked eye.
Up to this point, Bear and his handlers have been concentrating their efforts in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, although strong winds have hindered the dog’s ability to pinpoint the exact location of the koalas. Nevertheless, the dog’s acute sense of smell has confirmed the presence of survivors in the area, and rescuers have expressed relief, stating that Bear’s efforts will help them refocus their search endeavors.
“Now, more than ever, it is crucial to save individual koalas,” said Josey Sharrah, IFAW’s Wildlife Campaigner, in a statement. “With the bushfire season off to such an intense start, it will take many weeks and months before some of these fires are extinguished.”
“The koalas in the Northern Rivers region are already facing challenges such as prolonged drought, excessive land clearing and development, stress-related diseases, dog attacks, and car strikes,” the statement continued. “These animals require our support now more than ever.”
Leave a Reply