Australia has recently been suffering from severe bushfires that have caused destruction throughout the continent.
One major concern for animal groups is how the native koala population will be affected by the fires.
“Now, more than ever, saving individual koalas is critical,” Josey Sharrad, a campaigner for IFAW, told the Brisbane Times.”With such an intense start to the bushfire season, it will be many weeks and months before some of these fires are out.”
But now in the rescue effort to find and save the koalas, an unlikely hero has emerged: a dog named Bear, whose unique personality made his owners abandon him, but also made him the perfect search dog.
Bear has obsessive compulsive disorder, which made his owners give him up and surrender him to the pound.
But he was taken in by people from Sunshine Coast University, who saw his potential as a koala finder. His OCD turned out to be an asset for the job.
“He is obsessed with playing all day long, and we want to be collecting data all day long,” ecologist and post-doctoral research fellow Dr. Romane Cristescu told 9News.
“A lot of those amazingly skilled dogs do end up in the pound,” he said. “Finding Bear was very lucky for us and for him.”
Bear’s job is usually to look for sick or injured koalas for conservation, but he’s stepped up in the wake of the bushfires for his most important and risky mission yet.
“This is the first year that we have been involved in the fires,” Dr. Cristescu told Reuters. “It is a bit more dangerous than what we usually do.”
It is feared that 350 koalas were killed in the fires, and with dwindling populations it is crucial to try and save every one they can.
“With climate change, habitat loss and diseases, koalas are just facing too many threats,” Cristescu said. “Those fires are just one of the many things threatening them so we really need to be better at protecting them.”
Dressed in protective socks, Bear has been searching far and wide for surviving koalas. He has an incredible tracking ability where he can follow the koala’s scent even through burnt environments.
Unfortunately, no koalas have been found so far, but there is hope they will find some in the future.
“Although he did not find any koalas in this location, we’re hopeful survivors will be found in nearby areas,” IFAW wrote on Facebook. “Bear and team are on standby to deployed wherever needed in both New South Wales and Queensland.”
This abandoned dog is really showing everyone what he’s made out of, stepping to do very important work! Share this incredible story!