SYDNEY (Reuters) – Taylor, a 4-year-old English springer spaniel, has been among rescuers who worked hard during the Australian wildfire crisis.
Animal trainer Ryan Tate hugs Taylor, a koala detection dog, in Taree, New South Wales, Australia, affected by forest fires, on November 19, 2019, in this image, courtesy of Tate Animal Training Enterprises . Photograph taken on November 19, 2019. Tate Animal Training Enterprises via REUTERS
When he was told: “Koala, find!”, Taylor ventures into burnt bushes, finding wounded marsupials sniffing the smell of his fur or feces, also known as feces. Every time she finds a koala, she is rewarded with a tennis ball or a culinary gift.
The fires killed 29 people and razed the bushes in an area the size of Bulgaria.
The population of koalas in Australia has also been severely affected. In the state of New South Wales alone, authorities estimate that 30% of the habitat of the koalas (eucalyptus forests, which they use for both food and shelter) may have been lost.
A $ 50 million emergency wildlife recovery program launched by the federal government earlier this week will focus on the survival of the iconic native animal.
Taylor, meanwhile, has focused on finding injured koalas since she was only a few months old and is now an expert.
“In ideal conditions where the air is still, the smell of the animal falls from the tree and Taylor can smell it, will sit just below them and show them and show us where they are,” said coach Ryan Tate
He runs Tate Animal Training Enterprises, which specializes in dog detector services.
“In conditions of strong winds or in difficult conditions, she is also trained to find her droppings and when she finds fresh droppings, we can inform the experts where the droppings are and they will scan the canopy and generally find the animal,” Tate said.
The heavy fur of the koalas and the tendency to climb higher when threatened are serious disadvantages in fast-moving forest fires.
Several of the koalas found by Taylor have been treated at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, a specialized facility and tourist attraction that has been invaded by the current crisis.
Authorities have said that the full extent of damage to the koala’s habitat will not be known until the fires are extinguished, which is probably several months away.
Written by Jane Wardell, Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan