Australian bushfires

Heather is a volunteer with Animal Evac NZ, and was selected to join a specialist group of ten trained volunteers to provide communities with assistance during January.  Animal Evac have been set up in NZ to manage animals in disasters – we are a new organisation and rapidly growing.   Although our primary focus is in NZ, we were asked by SAFE to assist in Australia.

We flew from Wellington to Sydney, and collected supplies and equipment in Sydney before heading out to Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains.  There we assisted a local trained wildlife darter to search for and capture injured kangaroos.  As expected, most of the injuries were severe and the roos feet were badly burned, but it was heartening to see that a lot had survived the fires somehow.  The survivors were struggling to find food and water, and local farmers had begun putting food and buckets of water out for the wildlife.

From there we travelled down to Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands (the first day was a long one!).   We met with the local vets, and wildlife carers.  We were especially impressed with Greg and Justine from Dimmocks Wildlife Retreat who take in injured and orphaned wildlife and care for them.  They rely entirely on donations to fund the rehabilitation of the animals.  Their property was threatened by the fires and they had to evacuate all the wildlife there several times.

We also met with John from Wombat Care Bundanoon who was focused on providing much needed food and medical care to wombats and other wildlife throughout the area – he brought in a trailer load of food daily and the locals collected it to take out to the bush.  Another local, Steph,  was running another program as the Southern Highlands wildlife food co-operative making and maintaining water stations throughout the bush and organising feeding stations.

We went along to the pre-evacuation community meeting in Bundanoon to talk to pet owners about evacuation procedures for their pets (and gave out a large number of pet carriers to make sure none got left behind).  Also went to an evacuation centre at the showgrounds in Mittagong to better understand the needs for such shelters when we have to use them in NZ.

We evacuated (along with most of the residents) that day as the fires were forecast to threaten the town,  with 90km winds due and the fire front only 3km from town.   Somehow the RFS managed to keep the fires back and the town was saved with minimal property loss.    Dimmocks evacuated again in the middle of the night!

We went south to Batemans Bay – an area totally burnt out, including properties in the street where we stayed.  The next day, we searched a property on Pointers mountain for surviving wildlife,  then another area of bush at Broulee.  Then we met with Rae, who runs the Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary  near Batemans Bay.  The property was devastated by fire on New Years Eve and Rae and another friend (and her cat!) were evacuated by boat when their neighbour came to collect them.  The fire destroyed the property and her home.   Somehow around half of the 50 Eastern Grey Kangaroos survived, probably because they ran to the mangrove swamp below the property.  Some had minor injuries, but others had third degree burns to their feet.

We set up camp here for three days, brought lights and a generator and basic needs, and we searched the property to find injured animals and treat them.   I’m happy to report  that those we were treating are now happily hopping around on their previously painful raw feet and doing ok.   Also on the property on the third day was Marcus from Alphadog who is a registered darter also, and he managed to capture some roos that were injured and hiding out.   Another charity, Reach out Worldwide arrived – what an amazing bunch of people – they arrived with a truckload of gear and got to work building a hospital enclosure (which meant that the injured roos could be contained rather than released after treatment for ongoing care), and several shelters for Rae to feed them under.

My lasting impression of the tragedy, is the resilience and compassion of the local people – they were so grateful that someone had come to help.  The environment and wildlife populations will take a long time to recover.  So many smaller groups are involved in caring for their wildlife, and they are doing it without a lot of money and in their own time.

Funds raised at the clinic have been donated to the charities above, and we will continue to support them ongoing.  Please visit their websites if you would like to contribute directly, or we are happy to pass on funds if you wish to leave a donation with us at the clinic.

Here are some of the pictures we took:

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Wildlife search in the Blue Mountains

 

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Bundanoon, Rescue groups and evacuation centre

 

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Pointers mountain search and south to Bateman’s Bay through the burnt National parks.

 

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Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary

 

 

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