Wildlife Fire Survivors not Forgotten

Tuesday, 17 February, 2009
Whittlesea, Australia
Since arriving on the scene last Tuesday 10 February, IFAW’s (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Emergency Relief team has worked with local community, vets, the authorities and wildlife groups to help close to 100 animals affected by the Victorian fires so far. 

The number of animals being brought in for treatment has risen dramatically over the past few days as survivors emerge from the fire zones in search of food and water.  Many have terrible burns, dehydration and wounds from fleeing the fires.  Search and rescue operations are also being conducted as previously unsafe areas are being opened up.   With so many animals being brought in for treatment the team has converted an old footy shed into an intensive care unit.

“Many local residents are bringing animals to us for treatment; there is a strong desire for these innocent creatures to survive.  Seeing animals getting help seems to be offering some sense of hope and comfort to people who have lost a lot because of the fires,” said Tania Duratovic, IFAW Emergency Responder.

“Anyone who has suffered burns knows how excruciating the pain is and animal burns hurt just as badly as human burns, pain relief for these animals is an absolute priority.” 

The team is treating many different species – predominantly kangaroos, wallabies and koalas but also smaller, less common animals such as possums, echidnas, rare greater gliders and a pygmy possum.  While out searching for wildlife the team also treats any livestock or pets in need, including horses, goats and chickens.

“Last night we treated a wombat, a badly burnt wallaby and a turtle. Sadly the wallaby died but two echidnas which were also brought in have been given a clean bill of health and after a long night of care, along with the recovered turtle, have been released,” Ms Duratovic said.

“Wildlife in the region has been hit with a double whammy – first they were weakened by the incredibly harsh heatwave and then the fire swept through and left very few survivors, with the estimated loss of a million animals.

“Loss of biodiversity and habitat are huge problems for the area.  It is essential that we save as many animals as possible and find safe areas for recovered animals to return to.  Local knowledge is playing an essential role in this,” Ms Duratovic said.

At present the survival rates for rescued animals are good as the team, including burns expert IFAW vet Dr Howard Ralph, acts fast to treat and stabilize the animals before they go to carers for full recovery in preparation for their release back into safe bushland. 

Anyone who finds injured animals in the area should call Tania Duratovic on 0428 229 000.

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Senior Program Advisor
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
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Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
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Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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