Bear is a dog and his job is finding koalas.
The border collie/koolie mix with striking blue eyes works with Detection Dogs for Conservation, and has been specially-trained to sniff out displaced, sick, orphaned and injured koalas in the wild, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), so he has been busy these past few days.
Bushfires are currently raging across Australia’s east coast, and they are burning right through prime koala habitat. Experts predict that hundreds of koalas have already died in the fires, but Bear is there for the ones that survived.
The hardworking canine was recently sent out to several scorched areas in Australia to help Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – QFES, Queensland Koala Crusaders, and Wildcare Australia Inc. find koalas that may have been injured in the fires and are now in desperate need of help.
While the idea of a dog rescuing a koala may some adorable, the job is not easy. Koala detection dogs need to be disinterested in people, hyper-focused and without a prey drive. Luckily, Bear meets all the requirements. Years ago, Bear, now 6, was brought to Detection Dogs for Conservation by his former owners, who could no longer care for him.
“He was brought in for assessment at about one year old. Within minutes the team knew he was “The One” they had been looking for to train on live koalas. He is high-energy, obsessive, doesn’t like to be touched and is completely uninterested in people, which sadly means he doesn’t make the ideal family pet. But these qualities do make him a perfect candidate for a detection dog which is exactly why he was chosen,” IFAW , which funds Bear’s training and upkeep, shared in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Bear is highly focused and brilliant at focusing on one thing – his ball which is his reward, which makes him perfectly suited for the job. He also has zero prey drive which is essential for a wildlife detection dog as they need to focus purely on the scent and not the animal, ultimately ignoring the animal,” the statement continues.
Unlike many other koala detection dogs, which sniff of koala scat, Bear is trained to find live koalas, which makes him especially effective during natural disasters like fires, reports 9News. In these situations, there are often isn’t fresh scat to sniff out, and even if there is, it doesn’t always lead to the koala who left it. Bear is able to detect and lead rescuers to living koalas, even if they are at the top of burnt trees.
Bear has been putting these skills to work across the areas affected by the recent bushfires, and is ready to keep working for as long as the koalas need him.