We launch the AG Wildlife Bushfire Appeal

By Natsumi Penberthy 21 October 2013
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Only time will tell how badly the current bushfires will affect the wildlife of NSW. Donate now.

OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS, the Blue Mountains area, Penrith and Richmond, will prepare for some of the worst bushfires the state has ever experienced.

It’s expected there will be dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of people, and also for the wildlife that call these areas home. Animal welfare groups are already asking people to leave out bowls of water for wildlife in need.

Karen Masson, the CEO of Wildlife Victoria – an organisation which handled much of the wildlife rescue effort in Victoria during the Black Saturday bushfires – says that people should be wary of handling injured wildlife. She also encourages those in bushfire areas to contact animal welfare groups such as the Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) for advice and assistance.

Volunteers at the Katoomba WIRES branch are preparing to evacuate, even though fires are yet to reach them; the most serious blazes are currently burning around Lithgow and Springwood.

In recent days, the Katoomba shelter has taken in mostly possums, predominantly brushtail and ringtail, however as fires are moving quickly, they expect more wildlife will come. Karen says people should be aware that even if animals look fine, they may have inhaled smoke or flames, or have burnt feet.

Click here to donate to the AG NSW Wildlife Bushfire Appeal.

Lessons from Victoria’s 2009 bushfires

In 2009, when the Black Saturday bushfires ripped through the state, Wildlife Victoria learnt a few lessons the hard way. However, the organisation changed immeasurably following a flood of donations – including $25,000 raised by the Australian Geographic Society over just two weeks – which helped them set up call and triage centres for sick and wounded animals.

Since then, this money has also enabled Wildlife Victoria to create a much more responsive and well-trained support line for injured wildlife. Now, they take more than 300 calls a day.

Karen says one of the main things to come out of the 2009 fires was a realisation that vets need more training in wildlife care. It’s something they’re working towards. “At university, and I think Victoria is a leader in this area, there is one elective subject on wildlife in a seven-year course.”

“Often vets look after wildlife for free, but vets that learn about wildlife do it from the good of their heart… We’re looking to provide a facility where vets can come and learn.” 

Although Wildlife Victoria are in contact with WIRES about the fires, Karen says it will be a while before non-firefighters will be able to get into affected areas to rescue wildlife. The RSPCA, however, has trained staff working in the Blue Mountains area, checking on stock and pets that have been left behind, and euthanising severely injured wildlife. 

Click here to donate to the AG NSW Wildlife Bushfire Appeal.

New South Wales prepares for the worst 

On Sunday, Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a state of emergency across NSW for the next 30 days, giving emergency services special powers over what fire services say could be a catastrophic few days.

What is particularly worrying to the NSW Fire Services is that last year’s hot summer followed a series of very wet years during which vegetation flourished, and, as a result, fuel for the fires is abundant.

“The fire season has started much, much earlier than usual – bushfires, and a higher risk of them, are generally seen in January, when high temperatures and dry conditions are more common from a climatological perspective,” says Dr Sarah Perkins, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“Many temperature records have been broken around the country, including the warmest 12 months ever. September was not only the warmest September on record, it also had the highest positive mean anomaly for any month since observations began (+2.75C).”

Donations to the AG Society Wildlife Bushfire Appeal will go towards the rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release of wildlife affected by these fires.