As the wildfires in Australia’s grasslands burned bright, perhaps no species had been more greatly affected than the tree-dwelling, leaf-eating koalas, whose habitats were being steadily destroyed by the relentless flames. While it may have been tough times for the poor koalas, there were some heroes ready to save the day, and they may just have been four-legged. Specially trained to detect the scent of koalas and their droppings, these fearless pooches have done more than tangible good to find live animals amidst active fire.
The Greatest Assistants Around
Along with organizations like Friends of the Koalas Inc., International Fund for Animal Welfare, and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, dogs trained by TATE Animal Training Enterprises and other organizations were on the scene and using their powerful noses to locate koalas needing rescuing. To do this, the impressive canines track down animal droppings that indicate the likely location of live animals. Once these brave canines alert their humans, the team of expert koala searchers surveys the surrounding area for living creatures who need saving. When one is found, they pick them up and relocate them to either an animal refuge or safer ground.
One talented pup, Taylor, helped the team spot a total of eight koalas, according to CNN. In a Facebook post made by TATE Animal Training Enterprises, Taylor’s heroism has been outlined: “On 3 occasions she sat right beneath live animals, (including a mum and joey), and then in many other instances she would alert us to fresh scat…It is a lot like solving a complex puzzle and we are very privileged to be a small part of rescuing survivors.”
A Vulnerable Species
Perhaps one of the cutest and fuzziest creatures on the Earth, koalas are quite a vulnerable species, requiring highly specific climates to survive and thrive. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, the two most important factors to make an environment suitable for koala inhabitants are the presence of appropriate trees (most commonly eucalyptus) growing in suitable soil with regular rainfall, and an existing koala population. In the areas where the wildfires burned, the species has been deemed vulnerable. However, in Southern Australia, they’re actually thriving and in some areas overpopulating to a point where it’s become an issue.
Not Just Koalas
While progress has been made in the way of wildlife rescues, it’s not just been koalas who have felt the effects of these bushland wildfires. The wildfire season has become longer and longer each year thanks to human-caused global heating. With over 420 homes burned down, according to the BBC, temperatures have surged above 100 degrees, and all residents were advised to flee the area.
A Supportive Public
Though it’s clear that there is not much positivity to draw from a natural disaster like a wildfire, there’s no doubt that it has brought the community together, and made them all thankful for those willing to step up to the plate. On the same Facebook post by TATE, grateful comments of praise from community members and non-community members alike flowed in.
“Our hearts go out to all the people who lost everything and the poor animal that had no chance x thank you for helping” -Vanessa Yorke
“Thank you for helping our beautiful endemics wherever you can with your canine companions.” -Libby Eyre
“Fantastic teamwork saving our precious koalas.” -Linda Mair
All in all, though the backdrop is a tragic one, it couldn’t be more evident that the hard work, bravery, and perseverance of helpers of all species has been appreciated and integral in the rescue of a much-loved species native to Australia.
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