6 Feb 2020


Remember Taz and Missy? In case you missed it, this detection dog duo from OWAD Environment were deployed to map koala habitat and look for survivors in a fire-affected area of Queensland.

Taz and Missy have conducted five days of field searches on a property in Maryvale in January, with the help from generous donations from locals and people around the world, and from the support of online furniture company Koala.com.

These searches are a first and important step in longer-term recovery and have revealed a number of insights about surviving koalas on this property. Here are some of the key findings from OWAD’s Environment field notes...

  • Thanks to Missy and Taz, a total of 60km of fire-affected land was assessed on this property. According to OWAD Environment, detection dogs increase efficiency to find evidence of koala presence by 372%. Koalas are far from easy to spot in the wild, but thanks to their powerful sense of smell, Missy and Taz can find evidence of koala presence (scats or live koalas) much faster than humans.
Detection dogs= Taz and Missy
© WWF-Australia / Veronica Joseph
  • Over five days of field searches, a visual was obtained on 11 individuals, including 10 live koalas and one dead koala (hit by a vehicle on the highway).
  • And there is evidence of at least another 10 survivors in the area. We know this from fresh or recent scats found belonging to additional individuals that couldn't be physically tracked due to time and access limitations. 
  • These survivors include at least two females with pouch-dependent joeys, as evidenced by pap. Pap is a substance mothers produce for pouch-dependent joeys to ingest so they receive the gut bacteria needed to digest leaves.
  • Young new leaf is starting to grow back on some trees that were burned in the fire. Grass is also coming back in some patches and with it, macropods such as kangaroos and wallabies. However, those trees that did not burn are not producing any new leaf yet. Limited availability of leaf and lack of water/moisture are an issue on this property. Even with a good variety of koala food and habitat trees on this property, this will likely be an ongoing problem with changes in climate and weather patterns.
A male koala puffing his chest and showing off his scent gland, courting a nearby female © OWAD Environment
A male koala puffing his chest and showing off his scent gland, courting a nearby female © OWAD Environment © OWAD Environment
  • Of the 10 live koalas found, all appeared unharmed. One adult female appeared slightly thin, however her behaviour was normal and she was moving around without trouble. None of the live koalas located had any visible wounds or a 'wet bottom' or conjunctivitis, both are symptoms of advanced Chlamydia infection. The team at OWAD Environment also witnessed two instances of a female being courted by males. This is a very positive sign, indicating that koalas in the area are able to find each other to reproduce.
  • So, what’s next? Although there have been several storms on the property in the last week, this only provides a temporary reprieve as water dries up very quickly. Emergency water points were immediately placed by property staff for the female who appeared thin, and formal watering points are about to be placed at a number of strategic locations on the property. This aims to help koalas both immediately and in the long-term through prolonged periods of drought. 

Want to see more of Taz and Missy in action? Check out the video below

Since 20 January 2020, WWF-Australia has deployed more than $1.1 million in immediately accessible funds towards the rescue and care for injured wildlife. As well, we are working with governments, businesses, scientists and communities to ensure long-term plans and projects are in place to restore and protect critical wildlife habitat.

Want to help OWAD Environment in their koala conservation work? Simply like their Facebook page.