As three trained Border Collies scamper through a Chilean forest devastated by fire; native tree, flower and grass seeds fall to the ground from their special backpacks.
Two sisters and their dogs are helping to restore Chilean forest scorched by fire
After the worst wildfire season in Chile’s history ravaged ravaged more than 567 million hectares last year (1.4m acres), Francisca Torres and her sister Constanza bought hundreds of pounds of native seeds and strapped them on their three Border Collies in specialised backpacks. They spent the next six months letting them run around the affected area, and it looks like they were having the time of their lives.
A major goal is for animals that fled the fires to come back
Forest fires in Chile ravaged vast swathes of land early last year, leaving areas once thick with sturdy old trees reduced to burnt landscapes. The blazes blackened the El Maule region of central Chile as part of a series of fires that claimed 11 lives and charred a total of 457,000 hectares (1.13m acres) of forest land.
But in March of that year, three Border Collies began scampering through the charred remains with special backpacks that spread seeds as they run to sow seedlings, grass and flowers native to the region.
A major goal is for animals that fled the fires to come back.
"The main thing is for the fauna to be able to live," Francisca Torres, the owner of the three dogs told Phys.org.
The female dogs are named Das, Olivia, and Summer, and they can’t wait to leap out of Torres’ truck and run into the forest spreading seeds from their satchels, happily oblivious to the wonderful service they are providing.
When the job is over they get treats from Torres, who also trains dogs to work with people with disabilities. Then she fills their backpacks up with more seeds and sends them out again.
Torres, who runs an environmental NGO, says these dogs—bred to herd sheep—are smart, vibrant and fast and therefore just right for the job. In any case, they are better than humans, she said.
The dogs can cover a range of 30 kilometers in a day and sow up to 10 kilos of seeds, whereas a person could only cover three kilometers in a day.
"We have seen some fields that are now totally green thanks to the work of Summer, Olivia and Das," said Torres after three months. She pays for this work largely out of her own pocket, and with some donations.
Torres expressed hope that by summer the seeds will have germinated and some animals like foxes, hares and lizards will have returned to the forest.
Note: this article was originally published on 22 March 2019.
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