Among the thousands of firefighters battling the catastrophic Australiabushfires, there have been four-legged furry heroes employed with a job oftheir own.
Dogs are being employed to rescue koalas during the fires, and with the flamesexpected to continue on for months, they’re only just getting started.
TATE Animal Training Enterprises specializes in detector dog services inSydney, and its team of pups has saved dozens of koalas, owner Ryan Tate toldABC News.
One dog, 4-year-old Taylor, has rescued eight koalas since September,according to Tate.
Like most detector dogs, Taylor uses her snout to sniff out koala fur. Inperfect conditions, she is able to locate the koalas wherever they may bebecause their smell drops down from trees.
On days with difficult conditions, such as high winds, Taylor searches forkoala poop to identify where they have been, and human experts can then comein and scan the appropriate trees.
Trainers use the command “Koala, find!” to alert the dogs of their mission.
Steve Austin, a trainer who works with Tate, told ABC News that the importanceof these dogs can’t be overstated.
Koalas are vital to Australian wildlife, but are right now on their way tobecoming extinct, according to Austin. If more dogs were trained to detect theanimals, he said, thousands more could be saved.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, a California-based organization,said in a statement that search dogs can sniff out scents most humans can’tdetect, making their noses “a critical, life-saving tool to help the koalapopulation survive.”
Numerous dogs from other organizations have been employed to search for koalasduring the fires, with one even gaining internet fame.
Bear, a detection dog from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland,garnered attention for his koala-saving efforts. Actor Tom Hanks called forBear’s story to be made into a movie after seeing him go viral, saying “thestory of Bear, the koala detection dog. That’s adorable. I like Bear” during aTwitter interview.
Wildlife has been ravaged by the fires, with one expert at the University ofSydney estimating that more than one billion animals have died.
“We haven’t had fires of this scale and intensity before, so we are inuncharted territory,” Mathew Crowther, an associate professor at the collegewho specializes in wildlife ecology and management, told ABC News in an email.“It may take a long time for the ecosystems to recover, and some may not bethe same, particularly if they have lost species.”
At least 25 people have lost their lives and more than 2,000 homes have beendestroyed across the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saidearlier this week. Over 15 million acres have burned in Australia since thestart of the fire season.
Image: Ryan Tate and his pup Taylor search for koalas injured in the bushfires in Australia.Ryan Tate and his pup Taylor search for koalas injured inthe bush fires in Australia.Courtesy Ryan Tate
Source: US ABC News
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