Rescuing wildlife from the Grampians Wildfire

Dr Elaine Ong attending to an injured kangaroo.IFAW recently worked with vet Dr Elaine Ong to help rescue injured wildlife in the devastating wildfires in the Grampians, Victoria earlier this year. I wanted to share with you Elaine’s first-hand report of her experience, her text is below... -- JS

For over a century, wildfires have been a common disaster through the state of Victoria and in the past decade I have been a part of the rescue efforts amongst other tireless wildlife rescue volunteers.

Also on IFAW.org: Who is up to the job of saving our wildlife?

This year’s wildfires in the Grampians were so intense; a 12km wide convection column was created which was an issue in itself as it was generating its own weather and lightning strikes. This makes an escape route for wildlife virtually impossible and those who are able to be saved need around the clock care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

I was fortunate to be asked to join the rescue efforts in the Grampians with my trusted vet nurses Robyn and Ann and experience wildlife rescuer and spotter Donna Zabinskas. We worked with local carers Ros and Trevor Alderson from Landsborough Wildlife Shelter and other volunteers who were working around the clock to search and rescue injured wildlife. Eastern/Western Grey Kangaroos, baby wallabies and echidnas and many more different species of wildlife needed to be transported to a safe area and assessed. Our shifts would start at 6.30am until 2pm and intensified again from 5pm until 10pm. A very grueling and tiring schedule that many people endured to save as many animals as we possibly could.

The local residents around the Grampians were an incredible help, we relied on them to inform us if they spotted injured animals in their areas.

Three months on and our wildlife are still continuing to suffer the effects of the Grampians wildfires even though the fire has long been extinguished.  The other distressing part of this work was trying to capture the orphaned joeys - with their mothers dead and no source of milk, they starve slowly. Many of the animals were so hungry that they resorted to eating soil. Wildlife carers were given the hard task to source food and locate any animals that may still be critically injured.

Through collaborating with wildlife organisations under the direction of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and the much needed funding and support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we have been able to make a difference to the lives of many and will continue to do so through rehabilitation programmes and more preparation for the next bush fire season next October.

We would not put up with dogs or cats being in a situation with painful injuries and starvation. Wildlife is very much part of our balanced environment and we owe it to them to not abandon them in times of disaster.

Dr Elaine Ong

Thank you Elaine and to all the dedicated vets and carers for your amazing work to save our wildlife.

--JS

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