The past few decades has not been great for the koala bear. NPR recently noted, “Government officials have declared koalas endangered across much of eastern Australia, citing the impacts of drought, bush fires and habitat loss on the country’s dwindling marsupial population….Koala numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years, due to climate-driven weather events and rampant land-clearing for agricultural and urban development. Koala populations in Queensland and New South Wales, for example, were recently found to have decreased by 50% or more in the last two decades.”
But that might start to change if Max gets his way. Max is an English springer spaniel who is trained to find koala poop, yes literally. Australian news writes, “The intrepid canine has been trained to seek out one of the country’s most emblematic and endangered animals, the koala.
‘He’s looking for koala poo, and that’s all he’s interested in,’ his trainer, ecologist Lynn Baker, said.
“Ms Baker and her son Jack Nesbitt, from conservation detection dog agency Canines for Wildlife, are part of a Landcare program that is trying to find out how many koalas live on private properties in the NSW Northern Tablelands.
Max is helping the team by sniffing out poo that can help the program determine how healthy the population is and if the koalas are carrying chlamydia or other diseases.”
“In April 2020,” NPR continued, “WWF-Australia, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Humane Society International jointly called on the federal government to reclassify koalas as endangered, saying the move would mobilize funds, spur public support and increase protection for the forests and woodlands that koalas call home.”
Since then, the Australian government has spent nearly $50 million to help protect the endangered bears, deploying dog like Max to help find them so they can get the support they need.
Max better be careful, though. In 2019, “a resident of South Australia had sent his spaniel out of the house to do its business when he heard the dog barking loudly. The man discovered that a koala joey was clinging to the back of the dog after mistaking the spaniel to be its mother, and took a video of the incident.”