Bushfires are killing hundreds of koalas, injuring dozens more and destroying their habitat along the way.
A “koala detection dog” named Bear is among those joining the effort to rescue koalas trapped by the fires.
“Senior indigenous ranger, Grant Rhodes kindly guided the team, confirming that up to 20-40 koalas lived in this wildlife hotspot prior to the fires that destroyed 85% of 1,000 hectares,” the IFAW posted on Facebook this week.
Bear wears protective booties and stays hydrated working in tough conditions.
“Bear indicated there are definitely live koalas in the area which is promising,” the IFAW added. “We will continue to search and keep you posted.”
And Bear isn’t the only koala-sniffing dog on the job.
Another detection dog, Taylor, is also working to bring koalas to safety.
TATE Animal Training Enterprises and Taylor are also on the ground finding koalas that needed rescuing or relocating.
“Taylor assisted in finding 8 Koalas on our days in the field,” TATE said in a Facebook post. “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 and we would notify the expert Koala spotters who would then survey the canopy to spot the survivors.”
Rehab facilities have been overwhelmed with injured and displaced koalas.
Friends of the Koala Inc. for example, now has dozens of the animals now in its care.
“It’s an absolute tragedy out there for our koalas,” the group explained on Facebook. “The bushfires have wiped out prime koala habitat hitting our precious community in the Northern Rivers hard.”
The group says wildlife there are in “dire straits.”
“Our population has been severely affected by deforestation, disease, drought and now fires. These fires are horrific. They really are,” it added. “The fires in the Northern Rivers have been so extensive that we fear hundreds of koalas may have been lost.”
The group is on a mission to quickly raise $50,000 to manage record numbers of animals in need of care.
Just $20 supplies food for a koala for a week.
And the group isn’t alone in need of help.
Queensland Koala Crusaders is also on the hunt for survivors.
“Rescue and release of koalas is something we see this time of year and hospitals are full, caring for sick and injured koalas,” Queensland Koala Crusaders, “Then… there is bushfire!”
And then, even the survivors aren’t easily be released back to the wild.
“Trying to find a release site for a recovered koala can be very difficult, when critical habitat has been lost,” Queensland Koala Crusaders added.
The Koala Hospital Port Macquarie started a crowdfunding campaign to install water stations for thirsty koalas.
That campaign quickly raised more than $1-million from more than 22,000 donors.
Now it will be expanded to include other wildlife organizations, purchasing a water carrying vehicle with the capacity to fight fires, extending a wild koala breeding program and building a “Koala Ark” to help surviving koalas.
“In what is a national tragedy, the bushfires in and around Port Macquarie in November, devastated a genetically diverse koala population,” the hospital posted on its gofundme page. ” As many as 350 koalas have perished with approximately 75% of the fireground footprint being prime koala habitat.”