Bear and Dr Romane Cristescu go to work detecting wildlife after the fires.
Bear and Dr Romane Cristescu go to work detecting wildlife after the fires.

There’s Bear in there saving our koalas

Hollywood heavyweights Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio are fan boys of Bear the koala detection dog who found viral fame on the internet after the Cooroibah fires searching for surviving wildlife in the burnt out bushland.

Now Bear and his proud trainer Dr Romane Cristescu will be centre stage at the University of the Sunshine Coast for an update session with the Queensland Koala Crusaders on their latest research this Monday.

Their presentation comes after Dr Cristescu’s research colleague Associate Professor Celine Frere, the co-leader of the USC Detection Dogs for Conservation unit was presented with one of the state’s top scientific awards.

Tom Hanks is a fan of Bear the koala detection dog.
Tom Hanks is a fan of Bear the koala detection dog.

Assoc Prof Frere was named the Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year in Brisbane during the week for conservation work which has a real star attraction.

After watching Bear and his team’s detection feats post-fire, Hanks posted this tweet:

“This is a Disney movie that must be made – the story of Bear, the koala detection dog. That’s adorable.”

DiCaprio posted a video featuring a video on Bear and his handlers which noted these trained dogs sniff out koalas and helps them to safety.

“Hoping to save more koalas before it’s too late,” the video said.

Bear, who is credited with saving hundreds of koalas will be joined by his canine tracker buddies, Maya and Baxter at the USC session.

“We all saw the heartbreaking photos of koalas burnt, injured, traumatised and even dead but who could forget one little hero in his red boots venturing tirelessly through scorching stubble and ashes, in his search to locate koalas still clinging to burnt out trees unseen by human eyes?” QKC spokeswoman Eileen Walder said.

“Dr Cristescu’s wide range of interests all centre around how can we best help wildlife in a world dominated by humans.”

She will detail their work developing koala scat detection dog methods since 2011 and their drone-mounted thermal camera surveys since 2017.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett congratulates Tall Poppy science award winner Celine Frere. IMAGE: Lou O'Brien
Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett congratulates Tall Poppy science award winner Celine Frere. IMAGE: Lou O'Brien

The Detection Dogs for Conservation was formed at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2015 and has grown to include four detection dogs as researchers looking into landscape ecology, wildlife disease, conservation genetics and innovation for conservation.

After her award presentation, Dr Frere said: “Science is critical to our understanding of the world and, certainly in my field, how we manage our resources to protect our precious ecosystems.

“The team has featured in news media across the world since we worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to deploy detection dog Bear to find injured and displaced koalas following bushfires across New South Wales and Queensland,” Dr Frere said.

USC Vice-Chancellor Helen Bartlett said Dr Frere’s scientific outputs had helped the university gain a well above world standard rating in the fields of ecology and environmental sciences in the Excellence in Research Australia benchmarking.

The QKC information session will be held at the USC, Monday September7 at 5.30pm building K, Lecture Theatre 2.


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