Not all heroes wear capes, some wear extremely cute fire protective booties… and a fur coat. Some of these furry superstars donate much-needed blood to our blood banks, and some, like brave Bear, help find injured koalas, a now critical problem from the recent bushfire crisis. While the QLD and NSW emergency (human) services deserve our endless thanks, a round of ‘appaws’ is due for some of our animal heroes too.
November’s devastating bushfires have left koalas near functional extinction so locating and rescuing any of the remaining sick, injured and orphaned marsupials is crucial. This is where Bear comes in – a talented knight in furry armour… Where most detection dogs are trained to track droppings, Bear has special skills, being the only canine in the world trained to track live koalas by the scent of their fur as well. An honour bestowed upon this eager Border Collie-Koolie Cross for his neverending need to play.
This unlimited energy didn’t work out so well for Bear previously however when he was put up for adoption after destroying (completely eating) an earlier owner’s apartment. But like many quite intelligent ‘naughty’ dogs at the pound, Bear was actually just bored. Not born for the domesticated pet life, the intelligent and energetic Aussie working-dog knew he was destined for much bigger things. Ironically, the traits that made him a ‘bad pet’ made him the perfect koala hero.
By some perfect luck, his talents were discovered by trainers at Detection Dogs For Conservations, a University of Sunshine Coast program sponsored by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Bear was adopted and soon trained up as a koala detection dog – a job this clever, furry ball of energy was born for.
Associating a playtoy with a koala scent (and repeating x 1000) helped train this fun-motivated canine into a marsupial tracking superhero. When Bear finds a koala, he shows his handler by sitting very still and is later rewarded with a ball.
Bear and the other five DDC detection dogs have since been deployed to safe, recently fire-ravaged areas around QLD and NSW searching for survivors, including scouring one of the worst affected areas – Cooroibah forest on the Sunshine Coast.
With Detection Dogs For Conservations, Bear has truly found his calling, saving the koalas one sniff at a time… while playing all day long.
Want to help the koala crisis? Find out below.