Rescue dog stars at koala talk

Dr Romane Christescu and Bear

A real hero of the recent horrendous bushfires which totally wiped out habitats and colonies of koalas already endangered in many areas, is special guest at the Queensland Koala Crusaders’ next presentation, open to the public.

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?

Now an International TV star, Bear the Rescue dog who saved hundreds of koalas will be joined by his canine tracker buddies, Maya and Baxter. Conservation ecologist and koala researcher Dr Romane Cristescu trained the dogs here, on the Sunshine Coast as part of the Detection Dogs for Conservation project with Associate Professor Celine Frere.

Dr Cristescu’s wide range of interests all centre around “how can we best help wildlife in a world dominated by humans?” recently focusing on developing koala scat detection dog methods since 2011, and drone-mounted thermal camera surveys since 2017.

Since establishing Detection Dogs for Conservation at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2015 the team has grown to include four detection dogs and many researchers looking into landscape ecology, wildlife disease, conservation genetics, movement, community empowerment, innovation for conservation. In addition, the team is involved in koala welfare, in partnership with wildlife rescue groups – this mission became critical in 2020, with the team spending many months searching and rescuing koalas in the aftermath of the megafires.

Dr Cristescu qualified as a veterinarian in France, where she specialised in wildlife. She subsequently got a Master in genetics before moving to Australia for her PhD in landscape ecology – both specifically focusing on koalas. She worked in the Mining Industry on Mine Closure / Rehabilitation, where she transformed her research on restoration ecology into practice. Since then, she continues working with the private sector, the Government, not-for profits and Academia . Dr Cristescu hopes her research can be transformed into informed and effective management actions.

The presentation will be held at University of Sunshine Coast, building K, lecture theatre 2 on Monday 7 September at 5.30pm.

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