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Featured Image Credit: IFAW
A dog named Bear has been given a huge award for helping authorities in the wake of the devastating 2019-20 Australian bushfires.
The six-year-old Australian Koolie was deployed to fire-affected regions in New South Wales and Queensland to find koalas.
Thousands of koalas perished during the Black Summer bushfire season and it was up to Bear to see whether there were any that managed to find a way to survive the infernos.
For his efforts, he's been honoured at Animal Action Awards by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The IFAW said Bear 'gains a special recognition award for his tireless work in finding sick and injured koalas during a major crisis'.
"His passion for the role is evident in everything he does and he is credited with locating more than 100 koalas during Australia's Black Summer bushfires," the group said in a statement.
"Our winners this year can teach us many valuable lessons.
"They teach us that we need to reflect a diverse community of animal protectors to be successful. They teach us that being there for animals remains important but that animals can be there for us too.
"Critically this reminds us how interdependent we are with the animals of the world and how together we need to continue to work to improve things for all of us."
Bear was beamed into the ceremony via video link along with his handler, Dr Romane Cristescu, from the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Dr Cristescu told the crowd: "We think Bear really deserved this award because 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.
"We'll give Bear extra pats and extra play for his award.
The IFAW has been using dogs like Bear in crisis situations and conservation efforts ever since partnering with the University of the Sunshine Coast.
They say a dog's sense of smell is up to 10,000 times stronger than a human's nose and that is why they're so valuable in high-risk situations.
Bear and other koala-detection dogs are trained to sniff out koala scat and fur.
This is not only vital in rescuing koalas following bushfires, but also to let the IFAW collect data about the genetics and health of the local koala population.