In 2017, Chile faced the worst wildfire season in its history, which destroyed more than 1.4 million acres of land, including nearly 1,500 homes and claimed at least 11 lives. Several countries sent firefighters to help Chile battle the numerous blazes, but when the fires were finally extinguished, the land was a barren wasteland. In the following months, a unique team was brought in to restore the damaged ecosystem, and they had four legs and a love for racing through the forest at high speeds.
Meet Border collies Das, Summer, and Olivia, who were outfitted with special backpacks filled with seeds to help restore the damaged forest. The dogs were let loose to race through the forest while their backpacks streamed a trickle of seeds. The hope is that these seeds will take root and sprout, bringing the forest slowly back to life one tree at a time.
Francisca Torres, the owner of the dogs, says that the project is serious work, but for the dogs, it’s a chance to have fun. Torres and her sister Constanza fill the backpacks with native seeds and accompany the dogs as they run for the burned forest to spread the seeds. During the process, the dogs receive plenty of treats, which they get every time they return to their handlers, while they wait for their packs to be refilled, and when they finish spreading seeds.
Depending on the terrain, the border collies can cover up to 18 miles in a day and distribute more than 20 pounds of seeds. The pups are in it for the thrill of the race and the treats, but their hard work has already paid off. Torres says they have seen many results in flora and fauna coming back to the burned forest.
Although the dogs will soon be back out spreading seeds, they are currently working on sheep herding, obedience, and disc training. Torres says the sheep herding comes in handy because in the wilderness, the dogs must have enough self-control not to chase or attack any animals they encounter.
The Torres sisters pay for all the seeds themselves, as well as the supplies for the dogs and the transportation costs of getting to the forest. As for why they use these particular dogs for the task, Torres says the answer is simple: Border collies are supersmart!