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Video: Special detection dogs find surviving koalas amid Australian bushfires

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Two specially trained dogs found seven surviving koalas amid a burnt-out forest in Queensland, Australia. Two months ago, a 14,826-acre fire tore through this area of forest.

Thanks to generous donations from WWF supporters around the world and the help of online furniture company koala.com, we have two English springer spaniels now searching for koalas in the burnt forest. Taz and Missy are trained to sniff out koala scat and find any nearby surviving koalas—a first and important step in the long-term recovery of the region. The dogs are more effective and faster at finding koalas than humans.

On their first morning at the Maryvale property in Queensland’s Southern Downs region, Olivia Woosnam, koala conservations ecologist and joint owner and operator of consultancy OWAD Environment, which conducts koala surveys, said Taz quickly located fresh koala scat and when they looked up, they found a mother and her joey sitting in a tree. Later that same day the team located another female and male koala. In total, seven koalas have been found in this location.

“Finding seven koalas alive amid the destruction in just two days is an encouraging start,” said Dr. Stuart Blanch, senior manager land clearing and restoration, WWF-Australia. “It’s great to see that some koalas are surviving the fires and they can recolonize the forest as it regrows.”

WWF-Australia is providing immediate response to the bushfire crisis and ensuring there are long-term plans to restore what has been lost. We’ve partnered with wildlife rescue and care organizations in affected states and directed funds so that they can respond at the necessary level. Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to deliver emergency response to WWF conservation field partners in places affected by the fires, directing our funds to critical areas.

We will also produce and release a science-based assessment of wildlife losses. When the fires clear, we will help restore homes for koalas and other wildlife through our Towards Two Billion Trees plan to save and grow 2 billion trees by 2030. This starts with planting the first 10,000 trees in critical koala habitat.