So far we have learned about so many ways that dogs help us like medical detection dogs, cadaver dogs, service dogs, emotional support dogs and conservation dogs helping science with bee detection.
There are many more examples of conservation detection dogs. We all remember the horrific images of the fires that ravaged Australia and the certain dire impact on Koalas among other animals but did you also know that conservation dogs played an important role then and still today in saving and protecting Koalas? Dogs like Bear which we will learn about are responsible for saving over 100 koalas in the fires!
Dr. Romane Cristescu co-founded Detection Dogs for Conservation to help protect Australia’s wildlife. In her work she pioneered the use of detection dogs to locate koalas. By using detection dogs to locate koala scat and therefore koalas, Dr. Cristescu’s team is able to help monitor the status of koala populations and find koalas that may be in trouble.
Monitoring the status of koala populations with conservation dogs is crucial in the aftermath of a crisis similar to the bushfires of recent years, but it also plays a key part in policy-making says Dr. Cristescu.
This ongoing work will help to preserve the koala population for generations to come. Dogs like the prestigious Animal Action Award Winner, 2021 Bear, are trained conservation dogs that came to the rescue for Koalas in the fire. Bear found injured Koalas so that they could get to help and each day conservation detection dogs go out in the field supporting important koala conservation efforts by finding koalas to monitor their safety and health.
In general Koala numbers are in decline. The prevalence of fires like the fires we saw in Australia not only were responsible for the direct loss of Koalas’ lives but also were responsible for destroying their habitat in areas that they like to live in.
Fires of late have been the most intense in history, hotter and outside of the season. Koalas also find it difficult to tolerate many hot days in a row and have trouble regulating heat which can cause their decline as well.
These issues threatening Koalas make their conservation of utmost importance and the role of dogs like Bear, even more important.
Bear currently works on an important conservation dog scat detection team providing important work in ecology. The idea to use conservation dogs for koala scat detection has been so successful that the idea took off and now several dogs are working to find fresh Koala scat leading scientists to the illusive koalas to support them and perform important work to preserve them and keep them healthy.
Training Conservation Detection Dog
Trained Koala detection conservation dogs need to learn to drop as opposed to barking or other signals so that they do not scare the koala since koalas are known to be shy. They must remain quiet and silently tell you that the koala is there.
Conservation detection dogs are trained to find koala by teaching the detection scent dogs initially with fur from the koala.
What Type of Dog is the Best Conservation Dog for Koala Detection?
Dr. Romane Cristescu indicates that training a conservation detection dog for scent is a lot of work. The dogs need to be ball obsessed and never get distracted but at the same time not chase wildlife like rabbits and other animals deployed in national parks.
Dogs like Bear also are both air scenting and tracking unlike certain other dogs which are only trained to track by smelling smells on the ground.
The conservation detection dogs need to want to play but not chase, they have a high prey drive but do not chase prey. As a conservation dog they have a duty of care to all animals. Finding the right conservation dog, like Bear, can be a million to one proposition. It is very difficult for conservation groups like Koala detection groups to find the right dog.
As the Director of Conservation Dogs for research, Dr. Cristescu, looks for dogs that are high energy and obsessed with playing. She looks for dogs that want to play more than anything including being patted or food.
The dogs she finds are often rescued from pounds and groups where she always asks them for the highest energy dogs. But she indicates that often those are the most difficult to have as pets so these dogs do get a second chance.
The dogs also need to work in challenging environments. Australia, where dogs like Bear work, for instance, have a large amount of venomous snakes, the dogs are trained to move away quickly if they see a snake. But conservation detection dogs like Bear may also be working in very challenging environments, with heat, dense eucalyptus, and heavy bush.
As Dr. Cristescu says: Every species deserves for us to fight for them in this climate but the koala has a special place in her heart.
Do you love koalas and dogs? You can follow Bear and her adventures on Instagram @bearthekoaladog Do you know an amazing dog? Let us know in the comments below. Check out more amazing dogs in our Amazing Dogs Series: