In January 2017, a series of fires in central Chile’s La Maue region burned down over 457,000 hectares of forest, leaving behind nothing but charred ground. Now, three border collies are helping replant it all by doing what they love most, running.
Das, Olivia, and Summer, three female border collies have been working hard to bring the fire-devastated forest back to life, since March. Not that they know how hard or how important their work is, since they are essentially running and playing. The dogs’ owner, 32-year-old Francisca Torres, takes them to various areas of charred forest in her truck, equips them with special vests that come with special satchels which she fills with seeds of endemic plants. Then the dogs are sent out to run around and spread as many seeds as they can. When they return, she rewards them with snacks, fills up their satchels and sends them out on another run.
Torres, who trains the dogs not to attack any wild animal while on a seed spreading mission, says border collies are perfectly suited for the job, because of their intelligence, energy and speed. They’ve learned that they have to empty their satchels in order to receive their tasty reward when they return, and can cover much more ground than a human ever could. Every day, they can cover up to 30 kilometers and spread around eight kilograms of seeds, whereas a person on foot could only cover 3 kilometers. They are also low maintenance and, most importantly, they love what they do.
“The main thing is for the fauna to be able to live,” Francisca Torres told AFP. “We have seen some fields that are now totally green thanks to the work of Summer, Olivia and Das.”
Replanting the vast forests that burned down in just a few days will take years, but Torres hopes that her dogs will bring back enough vegetation for some of the fauna to return. In some of the 15 forests that the three dedicated border collies have been deployed in, grass is coming back, and seedlings and vines are beginning to push through the charred earth. Hopefully, enough seeds will germinate by the end of the summer for animals to come back.