RSPCA South Australia’s team on Kangaroo Island has used the burned out Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, located on the outskirts of Flinders Chase National Park near the famous Kelly Hill Caves, as a triage centre for wildlife survivors.
It is the first time wildlife rescuers have accessed the devastated sanctuary since fires swept across the popular tourist location on Friday January 3.
The scale of wildlife and bushland destruction has been heartbreaking. The team has seen countless dead animals and assisted in the humane euthanasia of the many animals too badly burned to be saved.
With a mission to save as many animals as possible, the RSPCA team set up a makeshift triage and treatment centre underneath a shed, one of the sanctuary’s few buildings left standing.
“We set up a table, a drip and everything we needed to triage and sedate animals, and take a look at their wounds,” RSPCA South Australia veterinarian Dr Gayle Kothari said.
“A lot of them had burns to all four feet, so we provided pain relief and bandaged them.”
In the absence of standard veterinary clinic equipment, the team has improvised to ensure animals receive the care they need.
“Every koala that gets an anaesthetic is given sub-cutaneous fluids from a drip, and in the absence of a drip pump or a drip stand, we used a ladder and managed to get a rope over one of the beams on the roof of the shed,” Dr Kothari said.
“We used that to tie our drip bag to, which worked really well.”
Army personnel have been assisting the RSPCA team, working in coordination with vets from SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management). This has included providing an Army vehicle to transport four injured koalas about 60 kilometres to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, located near Parndana, in the island’s centre. The park, which survived a major fire threat last Thursday night, has become the main triage centre for wildlife.
The RSPCA South Australia crew remains on the island assisting fire-affected animals today, with a new team including chief veterinarian Dr Brad Ward set to take over tomorrow.