The rescue dog with a difference



The rescue dog with a difference

A high-energy dog too active and playful for his owners has found a new role in life – saving threatened koala bears. The blue-eyed rescue dog’s supersensitive nose can detect the faintest scent of koala and save them when loggers go to work in eucalyptus plantations. Appropriately called Bear himself, the fun-loving animal treats sniffing out koalas before they can get hurt when trees are felled as one big game. Bear, a Border Collie-Koolie cross, has been recruited by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to undergo a training programme to become an official Koala Detection Dog, and has a knack for the job.

Koalas, officially classified as vulnerable to extinction on the official international Red List of endangered animals, face danger wherever they climb or wander. Wildfires, drought, disease (particularly chlamydia), and traffic all pose serious hazards for the animals, but logging blue gum eucalyptus trees is now regarded as the biggest threat. This is where detection dogs can be life-savers. Plantation work can be delayed if the presence of koalas is highlighted, allowing time for the animals to be relocated to a safer environment.

Bear himself was rescued in February last year, and became one of three animals to begin koala training at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dog Programme. He is the only one to make the grade, and has been scientifically tested to show he can detect koala scent with a 96 per cent success rate. He can also distinguish koalas from other marsupials with 95 per cent accuracy. He has begun tracking live koalas with encouraging results and takes his “masters degree” later in the year, when he will be tested against humans and drones.

Purchased as a puppy, Bear’s original family was disheartened to discover that his high energy and extreme toy-drive was too much for them to handle. Luckily for Bear, he came to the attention of IFAW, who were able to give him a second chance. And now, Bear will be able to give a second chance to koalas. Koalas are in crisis across Australia, with rapidly falling numbers. Loss of eucalyptus trees, the koala’s chief food, means they spend more time on the ground where they can get hit by cars, and even attacked by dogs. So this project allows the staff at IFAW to rescue some dogs from death row, to help them save koalas.

Credit: Sourced and adapted from article at 


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