Three Border Collies Replant Forests in Chile

Thanks to their dogs, two sisters unleash a unique way of planting trees.

Aug 31, 2020

 Three black and white collies scamper together, satchels on their backs. They run quickly, darting around trees, swerving playfully. What seems like a fun outing for dogs is, in reality, forest replanting. For wherever these dogs run, seeds spill across the earth, replenishing a forest.

This incredible initiative is happening thanks to two sisters from Talca, Chile. Together with their three border collies, as reported in Treehugger, the sisters are replanting a forest devastated by a fire three years ago.

Francisca Torres and her sister Constanza had a special connection with these forests that were once rich with trees, flowers, and wildlife. After a series of wildfires swept through the El Maule region of central Chile in early 2017, the sisters decided to help nature get a head start.

Using their own money to buy native seeds, they prepared special satchels with holes and filled them up. Every week they drove to the forest with their three border collies, 6-year-old Das, and her two puppies, Olivia and Summer.

The dogs were excited for these outings and with the full satchels on their backs, they could cover 18 miles each day. When the satchels were empty, they would return to their owners for water and a treat, then with a refilled bag, off they would go. In one day, they could distribute 20 pounds of seed.

They visited the area with their dogs over a period of six months and plan to start planting again. Francisca Torres explained to BBC Newsround that the dogs love their job and are well-suited to it. Whereas a person can walk two miles, the dogs can easily cover up to 25 miles. Border Collies are intelligent, athletic, and have lots of endurance and focus. As these three dogs also work as sheep herders, they have learned not to get distracted.

Doing good deeds is not new to Francisca Torres. She runs an animal-activism environmental NGO called Pewos and also trains assistance dogs. She and her sister Constanza are devoted to their volunteer reforestation project and are thrilled to see greenery sprouting from the ashes.

The sisters’ work is now paying off as the forest is coming back to life with saplings and sprouts of greenery and vines, according to Anything Pawsable. The areas where the dogs scattered seeds are showing more growth than the forests they did not visit. The sisters are hoping the seedlings will attract forest animals such as hares, foxes, and lizards to return to this area.

This unique project is capturing international attention, as reported on BBC Newsround. California and Australia, where there have also been large forest fires, are paying attention and have contacted Torres. The president of Chile has also praised the sisters’ efforts.

Their work does not stop here. The Torres sisters are taking many saplings to schools so children can be part of the regrowth project. When these saplings are larger, they hope to then replant them in the forest.

One day in the future, the same children will visit the forests that were given a new lease on life by three playful collies and will walk among mature trees that, as children, they once nurtured.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.