Breed: Australian Koolie
Special skill: Finding live koalas
Experience: Since 2017
Quirks: Enjoys yodelling – especially in the morning while stretching. Has a habit of bumping into things with his bottom (including his team mates). Sleeps in the strangest positions.
Bear is another of our detection dogs who has undergone an amazing transformation through his contributions to conservation work in Australia.
Before he joined the Detection Dog team, he spent a lot of time cooped up in a small flat, where he naturally became bored. At home, all alone, he acted out. He destroyed everything, including the walls of the home, which he gnawed at.
His owners gave him up because he had too much energy for them to handle. But it was that same energy that has made him a perfect detection dog. And he was surrendered just as we were looking for a live koala detection dog.
Bear has a special place in our team because he has both a conservation mission and a welfare mission – he can find koalas when they need help. This is why from the very start, Bear was the result of a partnership with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a not-for-profit involved both in wildlife conservation and animal welfare.
When we find a koala, we visually assess it to determine if it’s ill, injured or malnourished. If it’s healthy we collect as much data as possible about it and share this information so we can help protect the population. If the koala is sick, we notify and work with local koala-care groups as a sick koala will often need to be carefully coaxed down from the tree to get medical attention.
Lately, Bear has been especially busy with the Australian bushfires that started ravaging the country at the end of 2019. We’ve been deployed to many of the bushfire zones to search for koalas who have found their way back to the areas that were destroyed.
Koalas have defined home ranges, so many of them might return to their feeding ground. What we’ve found, though, is that the fires have destroyed a lot of their food source, so it is vitally important we keep heading back to these locations to monitor the koala populations there and check their health. Moving forward, this will be a big focus of ours for the foreseeable future.