Australian Wildfires: 4 Inspiring Stories of Hope and Resilience

From koala-sniffing dogs to the Irwin family coming to the rescue, there are multiple stories of heroism emerging from the bushfire disaster.

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- Posted on Jan 13, 2020

These are some of the heroic stories coming out of the wildfire disaster.

As the world watches in horror, Australia continues to be devastated by the worst wildfires the continent has experienced in decades. Heartbreaking images—burned koalas, flaming forests, smoke-filled Sydney and even a glowing image of the continent taken from outer space—are flooding the Internet. 

The wildfires, which have consumed almost 18 million acres and claimed the lives of 24 people and millions of animals, show no signs of stopping, according to CNN. Although international relief organizations are sending help and raising funds, there are also a slew of Good Samaritans around the globe springing into action. Here are four of our favorite hero stories.


A Zookeeper Takes His Job Home

Chad Staples, director of the Mogo Wildlife Park in New South Wales, home to more than 200 endangered and exotic animals, described the scene created by the bushfires to ABC News Australia as “apocalyptic.”  But the animals were ultimately saved due to an exceptionally dedicated staff, including Staples, who took home several red pandas and some small monkeys. Other workers stayed at the park to calm and care for the animals. Staples said “not a single animal [was] lost.”


A Koala’s Best Friend: Bear the Dog

The story of Bear, a six-year-old border collie-koolie mix, who is busy sniffing out and saving injured koalas, has gone viral.  As People magazine reports, others dogs have been trained to sniff out koala scat, but Bear, who works with Detection Dogs for Conservation, is able to smell and lead rescuers to live koalas. According to the Brisbane Times, even Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio have become fans of the rescue-dog with the stunning blue eyes. “This is a Disney movie that must be made,” Hanks said during a recent “Nice Tweets with Tom Hanks" session.


Irwin Family Saves More than 90,000 animals

The ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin may have died in 2006 after being stung by a stingray, but his family is  continuing his legacy of saving wildlife. In an Instagram post, Bindi Irwin, Steve’s 21-year-old daughter wrote: "With so many devastating fires within Australia, my heart breaks for the people and wildlife who have lost so much," adding that the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, run by the Irwin family, has treated 90,000 animals injured in the blaze.


A Daring Koala Rescue

A video of an Australian woman, Toni Doherty, running out of a burning forest with a koala wrapped in a blanket has made the rounds on social media; many declare her a hero. According to the Daily Mail, Doherty spotted the little creature around Long Flat, near Port Macquarie, NSW, scooped him up and doused him with water before escaping from the flames. “We just jumped out and I knew I needed to put something around him as I ran to the tree, so I just took off my shirt and covered him with it and tried to get him out of the fire,” she told the Today show. Sadly, the koala, who was named Lewis, died a few days later of his injuries, but his story raised more than $1 million for other koalas.

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