Dogs help rescue koalas as Australian wildfires rage

Dogs have been helping rescue koalas during the bushfires in Australia.
Dogs have been helping rescue koalas during the bushfires in Australia.

Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Habitats for the iconic Australian mammal are being destroyed

Several conservation groups have joined together in an effort to save Australia’s iconic koala bear from the deadly wildfires spreading across the continent in recent weeks.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has joined with Friends of the Koala Inc. and Detection Dogs for Conservation. IFAW also has a koala detection dog named Bear who, along with his handler from Detection Dogs for Conservation, recently visited an area struck by the wildfires to search for any surviving koalas.

The area was home to as many as 40 koalas before the fires destroyed dozens of acres, according to IFAW.

»MORE: Watch Good Samaritan rescue wounded koala bear

Rising temperatures prompted "catastrophic" alerts throughout south Australia on Wednesday, according to the BBC. Six people have died since last month in massive bushfires which are burning elsewhere in the country.

Thick smoke from wildfires has shrouded Sydney and its surrounding areas, with health experts warning residents with medical conditions to remain indoors.

The Sydney skyline was barely visible, with air quality in some parts of the city reaching over hazardous levels early Tuesday.

Shane Fitzsimmons, the state’s rural fire commissioner, said firefighters would be challenged by high temperatures and wind conditions.

Most of the coastal areas of New South Wales are under very high fire danger with 48 fires burning across the state.

Fires have destroyed 577 homes in New South Wales during the wildfire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer but has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.