Special order for sniffer dogs: Wanted: koala droppings

Not only in humans, but also in animals, faecal samples reveal a lot about the state of health.

Special order for sniffer dogs: Wanted: koala droppings

Not only in humans, but also in animals, faecal samples reveal a lot about the state of health. How the koalas are doing in Australia is of particular interest after the devastating bush fires of recent years. That's why sniffer dogs are specially trained to look for piles of koalas.

In Australia, dogs not only sniff out drugs, they also sniff out koala droppings: in recent years, two dogs named Bear and Billie-Jean have tracked down dozens of piles of endangered marsupials with their finely tuned noses. Samples collected from areas of Queensland particularly affected by the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020 are being analyzed alongside others to determine how natural disasters are affecting the health of koalas - and how the animals could be better protected in the future.

The sniffer dog team from the University of the Sunshine Coast and the animal welfare organization IFAW announced that the hormone levels and the intestinal microbiome in the legacies of the koalas were examined. Results are expected in the coming year, said Romane Cristescu, director of the tracking dog team.

"Detection dogs can be trained in many ways and for many different scents or scents," explained the expert. Police dogs search for drugs or money, for example, while others are trained to sniff out wildlife trade products. "Our dogs, on the other hand, are trained to recognize the smell of koalas and quolls," Cristescu said. There are currently only a few dozen four-legged friends specializing in koalas, but the number will probably increase significantly soon.

Studies on koala health are more important than ever after the Australian government officially upgraded koala status from vulnerable to endangered in three states in February, said IFAW researcher Wendy Simpson. "Koalas are generally a pretty resilient species. They can take a lot, but only up to a point."

In particular, the massive bush fires from August 2019 to March 2020 hit the cute marsupials hard. According to estimates by the environmental organization WWF, more than 60,000 of the koalas that are only native Down Under were killed, injured, driven away or traumatized. Images of animals with singed fur and burned paws went around the world.

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