What vets can do to help Australia's native wildlife

Dr Howard Ralph, IFAW vet, examines a rescued koala for injuries.As I’m discovering, Australia is a pretty unique country. 

Did you know that we have an astounding one million native species? 

And, 80 percent of our native mammals can only be found here and nowhere else on Earth.

Yet you can’t have missed the many news stories that Australia’s wildlife is in peril. 

As a country of animal lovers, it would seem that some animals get more love than others. Let’s just take a look at the facts – they are pretty shocking:

  • Twenty percent of Australian mammals are threatened
  • Eighteen Australian mammal species have become extinct in the last two centuries.

As we go into the bushfire season, our wildlife is being battered from all angles – habitat loss, climate change, car accidents, dog attacks, natural disasters and disease – only recently there are reports of the Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat, which has usually thrived, now facing a mystery illness and falling numbers and we read daily about the dwindling numbers of koalas.

Fortunately, Australia also has one of the largest numbers of wildlife carers in the world. They are the guardians and saviours of our precious wildlife, working round the clock to rescue, care for, rehabilitate and release then sick and injured.

But they need help. Sadly there is a lack of vets, particularly in remote and rural areas willing and able to provide much-needed advice and veterinary care for wildlife.  And when disaster strikes, such as a bush fire, there is often a lack of available qualified vets on hand to treat the affected wildlife.  

It is a daunting job – wild animals are more diverse, complex and unpredictable than cats and dogs. But it is also so incredibly rewarding.

There are a few committed and compassionate wildlife vets around the country who do amazing work treating wild animals and helping carers by holding open clinics or providing cheap or free veterinary advice and care. But there are not nearly enough of them. 

This bush fire season, IFAW is reaching out to vets around the country to create a network of vets willing and able to treat wildlife.  Many vets have the willingness but lack the skills to treat specific wildlife and this is where IFAW can assist by providing that much-needed training.  

The planned network would also provide a forum for information-sharing and support.  IFAW would like to hear from any vets around the country who would be interested in being part of this exciting initiative.  

Please contact Josey Sharrad on jsharrad@ifaw.org

-- JS

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