An Australian Koolie named Bear was a rescue dog who helped researchers monitor koalas in the wild by sniffing them out. Koalas could be hard to find because they could sit very still and stay quiet. They also camouflage well among the trees and leaves. However, a dog’s powerful sense of smell can easily detect them.
University of Sunshine Coast research fellow Dr. Romane Cristescu chose Bear as a perfect candidate to be a koala detection dog because of his unique temperament. He was a high-energy dog who wanted to play all day. They used this trait as a motivation to train him to track koalas by sniffing out their scat and urine. He would then be rewarded with treats and a toy.
Whenever Bear finds the scent of a koala, he drops. A spotter would scan the canopy. If there were koalas, they would catch them, check their health and release them back into the wild fitted with a tracking device on a collar. The tracking device would allow them to monitor how they cope with human threats in their habitat.
When bushfires raged across Australia, IFAW or International Fund of Animal Welfare enlisted Bear’s help, along with four other similarly trained dogs, to find and rescue koalas. It was an arduous task because Bear and his handler had to cover every section of the burnt areas to ensure there were no koalas who needed to be rescued. If there were any remaining koalas in a particular area, they would be in danger of dehydration and starvation, so they had to be very thorough.
Bear was deployed when the authorities had declared the place safe after the fire. The human part of the team wear protective equipment, and Bear was protected as well by wearing his famous red booties.
Bear’s work to save koalas still continued even after the crisis had abated. The researchers strove to learn more from the recent crisis. The data they collected would be beneficial in the conservation program and help them prepare for the next bushfire.
Source; Nature on PBS via YouTube