Dog abandoned as pup is now helping rescue koalas from Australian wildfires
Published Tuesday, January 7, 2020 8:40PM EST
TORONTO -- A dog who was abandoned as a puppy is now doing his part to help koalas affected by the Australia wildfires.
Bear the dog has been helping wayward koalas attempting to flee the devastation, ecologist Romane Cristescu, who’s part of the Detection Dogs for Conservation program at the University of The Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, told CTV News Channel.
But the dog’s tracking skills were not necessarily appreciated by his previous owners.
Cristescu said the pet cattle dog cross-breed was abandoned because he was far too “energetic and wanted to play all day.” But Bear’s gusto helps when he’s tracking down koalas and quolls, another small Australian marsupial.
The dog was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and this attention to detail has also proven invaluable in tracking.
“Sometimes the koalas is really high up in the tree and you can imagine that picking (up) that odour is really hard,” Cristescu said. “Even though it’s a tough job, it’s one he really enjoys.”
Some estimates suggest that Bear may have found dozens of koalas last year. And 2019 was the first year her team of dogs have been involved in the fires.
Cristescu’s dogs traditionally help track down sick or injured wildlife for conservation but in the wake of the devastating wildfires, the canines have been stepping up.
She stressed Bear does not go to dangerous areas to track down koalas and that he wears protective gear when out on patrol. “He doesn’t necessarily like those little booties,” she laughed.
Hundreds of millions of animals are believed to have been killed or affected by the wildfires with some estimates even reaching one billion. Because koalas are slow-moving animals, they’ve been particularly vulnerable to the fires.