Koala Populations Devastated by Fire, Dogs Helping to Save Them
A historic bush fire has torn through the eastern Australia coast, killing at least four people according to The Washington Post, and now hundreds of Australia’s most iconic symbol — koala bears — are also feared dead. But now, CNN reports that non-profits like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are using dogs trained to find koalas in the wild to rescue them.
Why This Matters: For Australians, this is a national tragedy, and it painfully demonstrates the link between climate change and biodiversity loss. With extreme weather events caused by climate change, we will increasingly need extraordinary means to deal with the myriad of cascading crises these events cause. According to the World Wildlife Fund, koalas are at risk of extinction already because of loss of forest habitat due to development — their numbers have dropped to fewer than 20,000 in their primary habitat in New South Wales and they could be extinct by 2050. This situation also demonstrates that new rescue capabilities need to be deployed in order to deal with climate change and mitigate its impacts.
According to The Washington Post, some lucky koalas have escaped the fires “with singed ears and burned feet, clinging to rescuers who came to save the already imperiled koalas.” This is reminiscent of the injured wildlife that had to be rescued and nursed back to health after the California fires in 2018.
Conservationists To The Rescue
The Post reported that conservationists have “raced to install water stations for surviving koalas stricken with dehydration.” But the public has been touched by the stories of the dogs that have been able to find them due to special training. CNN told the story of Bear, a border collie-koolie cross that is being deployed in the region with remarkable results.
“IFAW specifically sponsors koala detection dog Bear, but there are other dogs which the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland works with, some of which are trained to sniff for koala droppings, whereas Bear is trained to sniff out koala fur and identify where there are live koalas,” IFAW spokeswoman Clare Sterling told CNN.
To Go Deeper:
You can learn more about IFAW’s koala detecting dogs here