Dog helped save more than 100 koalas from Australian wildfires

A dog was recently honored for helping to save more than 100 injured koalas caught scorched in Australia’s wildfires. 

In 2019 and 2020, Australia’s wildfires left numerous wildlife stranded and injured, and Bear, the six-year-old Australian Koolie, was brought in to help. 

Not all dogs can help save the koalas. Bear’s owner says it takes a special type of pup.

"You have to find a good dog first," Director of Detection Dogs for Conservation, Dr. Romane Cristescu says. "The reason we selected Bear was because he’s got that obsession. We call it OCB – Obsession Compulsive Behavior. It’s basically the dogs that want to play all day long."

Cristescu says they harness that energy to train them on a specific target order. 

Once Bear is released in the devastated areas, he gives a signal to let him know he’s found a koala.  

"He drops to the ground. So basically, we want the signal to be as noninvasive as possible for the caller because that would be really stressful. So as soon as you ease into what we call the cone of sand, he drops," Cristescu says. 

Because of Bear’s hard work, he was given an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. 

"We were all so happy for him to be recognized. But it’s really an award that goes to all the team behind Bear," Cristescu says. "The Wildlife Rescue Group and the International Fund for Animal Welfare made it possible for us to be helping out, and those people on the ground have the very tough job of being on the frontline for animals that are suffering."

As far as what’s next for him, "Bear does normal wildlife rescue, so more sick and injured animals not related to the fire," Cristescu says. "We have different research projects, and we’re studying things like the impact of the fire and climate change on koalas, the impact of urbanization on koalas. And for all those things, we need to find koalas. That’s his normal day job."