Bear Hunt at Alsahwa

Image source: IN Noosa Magazine

As the rain fell over Alsahwa Retreat in the Noosa hinterland – I was filled with excitement and hope. Nothing was going to dampen my spirits as a group of koala crusaders set out on a Bear hunt.  

The koala is endangered and my heart breaks to write those words. Only 10 years ago the iconic native Australian marsupial was listed as vulnerable and in 2022 we find ourselves in a dire situation. My first thought is how deeply sad it would be for our kids and their children to live in a world where the koala bear is a distant memory.  

Action is being taken but much more needs to happen and we can contribute. I began by attending an event at the new Alsahwa Eco Wellness Retreat in the Noosa hinterland. 38 acres of lush bushland dedicated to people and the planet. Founder and owner Jo Walker created the retreat to provide bespoke experiences including this koala detection day.

“Our farm based eco wellness retreat philosophy is to harness the power of the mind, body and planet. This event is very personal for me. During the catastrophic fires in 2022 I was living in LA and felt powerless to help my home county. When I saw a story on the incredible work Bear the live koala detection dog was doing to rescue animals, he became a symbol of hope. I was determined to do my bit when I was able to do so. I want to identify if my property is a home to koalas and to provide the best possible environment for them to thrive. If not, my dream is to make this a koala rehabilitation or rehoming sanctuary,” says Jo.  

The koala detection day with University of The Sunshine Coast Detection Dogs research unit and International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) was educational, emotional and inspirational. In Noosa and Hello Sunshine magazines were so honoured to sponsor the day. Rain certainly didn’t deter a motivated group of locals looking to experience something special and groups like Koala Crusaders in attendance to see if we would uncover an existing habitat.  

Dr Romane Cristescu is Director of Detection Dogs for Conservation and a Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast and through her presentation I learnt so much about the koala and the battle ahead for my favourite tree dwelling fur friend. The koala population is faced with many challenges such as habitat loss, lack of genetic diversity, disease, human threats such as car strikes and dog attacks.

Dr Romane says the lesser-known thing about koalas is that they are notoriously hard to find.

“They are really good at hiding, an elusive species that we grossly underestimate” she says.

The important research they do means they need to spot as many koalas as possible. Humans are effective but canines have proven to be even more effective. The team of USC detection dogs have been trained koalas and koala scats to enable rescue and research of this endangered and much loved species. 

Bear is the only live koala detection dog on the southern seaboard and has been deployed heavily over recent years post fire and flooding disasters. This dog gives me another reason to love canines even more – they are so clever and Bear and his team are doing life changing work for our national treasure. Dogs are amazing!  

So, following some insight into the state of the koala nation we set out on a koala bear hunt with the USC team on the vast Alsahwa farm retreat. The conditions were rough for Bear with rain and wind, but the show went on. On this occasion Bear was unable to identify live koalas on the property but the experts identified Alsahwa as a suitable site for future rehoming. To further confirm if any koalas call this place home or use it as a corridor the scat detection dog will sniff it out later. Either way, Jo has a safe home for koalas and that is a huge win for all.  

I cannot wait to attend further events and experiences at Alsahwa Retreat including beekeeping in their aviary, tree planting, ceramics and fermentation. Jo and her incredible team have created a venue that is as much about human wellbeing as it is our environment.   

What can we do now to help koalas?  

WATCH OUT – Spring is koala breeding season – be aware of koalas on the move in the early morning and late afternoon.  

PROTECT – Dogs attacks on koalas are common – bring pets inside if you live near a koala corridor.  

ACT – Get involved in tree planting and supporting koala rescue groups in your area. Contact politicians about protecting remaining habitats.  


UPCOMING EVENTS at Alsahwa   

Pure Greene Qigong Workshop – Saturday 1 October, 9am – 12.30pm  

To register for this event email [email protected]  

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