'Bear' the dog braves Australian wildfires to save koalas
A dog with obsessive-compulsive-disorder, who was abandoned as a puppy, has been praised on social media for saving koalas from the Australian wildfires.
Bear, a Border Collie-Koolie crossbreed, has been helping firefighters in New South Wales battling the destructive fires raging across the country, by sniffing out koala bears and rescuing the endangered creatures. Wearing special socks to protect his paws from the heat, he is sent into burnt-out areas to alert his handler when a koala is near.
Bear was abandoned by his owners and later rescued from a dog pound by Sunshine Coast University, where researchers trained him to find koalas, and they have now loaned him to the Australian fire departments to lend a helping paw with his attentiveness and keen nose.
This week, the animal conservation charity IFAW shared a number of pictures of Bear, kitted out in his fireproof apparel, and assisting the emergency services. The post read: "Unfortunately no signs of koalas were found, but we are hopeful that survivors will be found in nearby areas."
Watch The Australian Foundation's video about why we need to save this precious species:
In an interview with Reuters, Romane Cristescu (ecologist at The University of the Sunshine Coast and Bear's handler) stated: "This is the first year that we have been involved in the fires. It is a bit more dangerous than what we usually do.”
They added: "With climate change, habitat loss and diseases, koalas are just facing too many threats. Those fires are just one of the many things threatening them so we really need to be better at protecting them."
Speaking about Bear's role in an interview with the Brisbane Times, volunteer Josey Sharrad stated: "Now, more than ever, saving individual koalas is critical. With such an intense start to the bushfire season, it will be many weeks and months before some of these fires are out. All the while, wildlife will continue to need to be rescued and treated and might remain in care for some time. The road to recovery will be long."
Reuters reports that the recent bushfires have ravaged around 2.5 million acres of farmland and bushland on Australia’s east coast, killing four people and destroying hundreds of homes.