He was once abandoned by his previous owner for his obsessive-compulsive disorder. But today, the same dog is being hailed as a hero for saving more than 100 koalas from danger.
The brave six-year-old dog named Bear was seen as unfit to play well with other dogs.
However, his ceaseless energy came in handy after he joined the Detection Dogs for Conservation program at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Bear was trained to catch the scent of a koala’s fur and lead his handlers to their location.
After his training, Bear joined teams that peeled through areas of Australia, scorched down by bushfires in 2019 and 2020.
Bear was able to sniff out koalas and then quietly drop down near the tree so that rescuers could bring them to safety.
With Bear’s help, the team was able to rescue over 100 of these marsupials from bushfire-ravaged areas in Australia. The rescue dog’s powerful nose was of great help, and for his phenomenal work, the Australian Koolie was recently honored by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords.
“We think Bear really deserved this award,” said Bear’s handler Romane Cristescu, of the University of the Sunshine Coast, according to 9News. “He’s been such a good boy in helping us find and rescue a lot of koalas, especially during the bushfires, but he works throughout the year to help us in our job to make a better and safer place for koalas.”
Bear was virtually honored by the ifaw and was accompanied by his team when the special medial was presented to him.
“We’ll give Bear extra pats and extra play for his award,” Romane said.
Currently, Bear is the world’s only dog that is trained to detect the whereabouts of a koala with their fur as well as their faces. “Bear, who recognises the scent of the fur of live koalas, has been trained to drop silently to the ground at the base of the tree where he has located a koala, to ensure it is not disturbed,” ifaw wrote on Facebook.
Seeing him do so well during his first deployment in the 2019-2020 bushfire was an extremely positive sign. “He found koalas despite all those harrowing conditions. That brought us hope,” ifaw wildlife campaigner, Josey Sharrad, told AAP, as reported by the Daily Mail.
In honor of Bear receiving the special award, ifaw praised the life-saving dog on Facebook and wrote, “During the infamous Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, which raged across the country, huge swathes of koala habitat were destroyed and thousands of koalas were among the billions of wild animals that perished.
One ray of hope at this time was Bear, whose searches of scorched land resulted in more than 100 koalas being located, many in need of veterinary care. Some suffered burn injuries while others were severely malnourished and dehydrated, but Bear’s efforts enabled them to be rescued and rehabilitated before being released back to the wild.”