Latest bushfire reports
Bushfires are continuing to rage across southern and eastern parts of Australia and news of animal deaths – already heart-breaking to contemplate a month earlier – are starting to rack up into catastrophic levels of “well over one billion”, according to estimates by Dr Chris Dickman, an expert on Australian biodiversity at the University of Sydney. Some are even in danger of becoming extinct. We’ve seen devastating images and footage of singed and expired koalas, kangaroos, wombats and all sorts of rare species since the fires broke out earlier than usual this past September consuming some 11 million hectares of land with scant rains bringing only “very temporary” relief, according to NASA.
Both dogs and koalas are adorable in their own right. Put the two together and you have a match made in heartwarming rescue heaven. Several animal training groups, including Working Dogs for Conservation, actually teach dogs how to sniff out live koalas – either by the scent of their scat or the smell of their fur. News circulated in November 2019 on CNN about Bear, a mix of border collie and koolie, who was able to indicate to handlers that koalas were out there – somewhere – in the burnt landscape of an Indigenous Protected Area in Ballina, and that they should deploy to seek them out. Another, springer spaniel pup, Taylor, was credited with finding eight koalas, including a mother and her joey.
Above and beyond
In early January, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that Chad Staples, the director of the Mogo Wildlife Park in New South Wales, had taken the duties of his job to the next level. As fires pushed on by rapid winds drew near the zoo, threatening the 200 animals it houses, including tigers, rhinos and a collection of rare primates, Staples enacted a special rescue plan for some of the animals: he brought them home with him. Thanks to him, red pandas, which are already at risk of extinction, some smaller monkeys, and even a tiger were far from the zoo when the fire hit. And thanks to tireless firefighting efforts in and around the zoo, all animals survived safe and sound.