A trainer has turned Maya the obsessive compulsive dog into a first-class koala tracker, helping to map populations in Queensland.
A dog with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and a lust for tennis balls is doing her bit to save koalas in Queensland.
Maya is the only dog in the world trained to sniff out koala droppings, and she’s just started her first job at Logan, south of Brisbane, helping ecologists to identify and map prime koala habitats.
Her reward is ample playtime with tennis balls. It might not sound like much, but for an OCD dog fixated on the things, that’s about as good as life can get.
Maya’s story is ultimately a happy one after a sad start when her behaviour resulted in her being surrendered to the RSPCA.
But when professional dog trainer Gary Jackson crossed her path and saw her potential, life took an upward swing.
After intensive training, Maya is what Mr Jackson calls the future of koala conservation efforts.
She started her career at Logan on Tuesday, where she’s going about the business of sniffing out koala poo with gusto. Her sharp nose can root out droppings far faster than a human attempting the same task.
“Koala scats are fairly small and are often hidden under leaves and grass. It’s incredibly easy to miss them,” Maya’s handler, Olivia Woosnam, says.
“I just run around after her taking GPS co-ordinates and throwing the ball for her.”
Maya will be used to inspect about 480 hectares of land, spanning 50 parks in the Logan area, including spots away from population centres.
Her efforts will be used to produce the first scientific distribution map of koalas in the area, doing away with the need to rely on anecdotal information about where they are living.
Maya is following in the steps of the world’s first koala detection dog, Oscar, which was killed last year in NSW while trying to track down one of the marsupials.
He and his ecologist owner, Jim Shields, had been working to find koalas in front of excavators that were clearing land for a housing development at Port Macquarie.
During their work, they spotted a koala that ran onto a road. Sadly, Oscar was hit and killed by a passing car. The koala survived.