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A dog that rescued more than 100 koalas during last year’s bushfires in Australia has been awarded a gold medal for his heroic efforts.
Bear the Australian koolie excelled as a rescue dog last year when he helped save dozens of koalas from catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.
For his efforts, 6-year-old Bear was given the special recognition award by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) during a ceremony at the U.K. House of Lords last month.
During the Animal Action Awards, Bear appeared alongside handler Dr. Romane Cristescu, of the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), via video link to accept praise for his efforts.
“We think Bear really deserved this award. He’s been such a good boy in helping us find and rescue a lot of koalas, especially during the bushfires, but he works throughout the year to help us in our job to make a better and safer place for koalas,” Cristescu said, according to 9News.
She added: “We’ll give Bear extra pats and extra play for his award.”
A USC media release shared on October 26, Dr. Cristescu said: “Bear and our team are studying the effects of the 2019-20 bushfires on koala health and habitat density in collaboration with IFAW.
“In addition, Bear has an ongoing day job of locating koalas for welfare rescue missions, in collaboration with local rescue groups. He is always happy to give a paw to find koalas as part of the Detection Dogs for Conservation’s other research activities.”
Newsweek has contacted Dr. Cristescu for comment.
Dr. Cristescu and the USC Detection Dogs for Conservation team adopt rescue dogs and train them to track koalas that are in need of rescue.
Speaking last year, Dr. Cristescu said the characteristics that make Bear a more challenging pet are the skills that make him exceptional at finding stranded koalas.
She said: “When we look for a new dog, we put the word out to all the rescue groups because often what we look for in a dog makes them difficult pets. So that high energy, obsession with playing.”
The 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires were the worst ever recorded in the Australian state of New South Wales.
According to the Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub, run by the Australian Government, in a few months 26 lives were lost, 2,338 homes were destroyed and 5.5 million hectares of land was burnt.
It also said the impact on the state’s communities, farmers, local businesses, wildlife and bushland was “unprecedented.”