Bushfire season threatens Australian wildlife; vets, responders get ready

Western Australia experienced some devastating bushfires at the beginning of the year and since NSW is already experiencing an early season, it’s a reminder that we all need to be prepared for a bushfire.

While it’s important to have a plan for our family and pets, who looks after wildlife in a fire?

Although most native wild either escape or perish during a fire, some survive. We’ve seen kangaroos, koalas, possums, echidnas and reptiles come out of a bushfire, but they are often burnt, starving or suffering from smoke inhalation and need urgent and specialised veterinary treatment.

IFAW recently hosted a workshop with Dr Anne Fowler at the WA AVA veterinary conference in Fremantle on how to treat burned wildlife; this is a follow-up to the first workshop two years ago.  More than 70 people attended - a mix of vets, vet nurses and wildlife rescuers, which is great as disaster response is a collective effort.

There were also some other attendees who noticeably didn’t take any notes (six kangaroo joeys and a baby orphaned bandicoot who had to be hand-fed by wildlife rescuers during the breaks).

Anne, who has worked with wildlife in many fires, including Black Saturday, showed people how to assess and treat different animals– wildlife, pets and livestock.  She also explained how emergency response crews operate and how to look after oneself to avoid burnout and stress.

Everyone learnt how to apply a perfect bandage, a simple yet essential skill that can mean life or death to an injured animal; the human participants simply used each other as guinea pigs (or kangaroos).

Vet Joan Deetman made a call to arms by inviting vets, vet nurses and wildlife rescuers to join WAVER (WA Vet Emergency Response), WA’s first organised front-line veterinary response group to be activated by the emergency services in the event of a disaster.

The training left me hopeful that we have 140 more people in WA who are now trained in how to treat burnt animals.

Hopefully, they won’t need to but, if it comes to it, they will be prepared.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy