Teams of animal care experts including RSPCA South Australia staff continue to work round-the-clock to rescue and treat the wildlife survivors of Kangaroo Island’s devastating bushfires.
RSPCA South Australia veterinarian Gayle Kothari, inspector Cheryl Doudle and animal handler Cher Long spent yesterday at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, located in Parndana. The park came under major threat from fires on Thursday night, with the park’s owner Sam Mitchell among five people who stayed to defend the property and its 800 animals, with the assistance of the Country Fire Service (CFS).
As soon as the fire threat past, the RSPCA South Australia team was among personnel who arrived at the park to assist in the care of wildlife, mainly koalas suffering burns and malnourishment after their food source was destroyed. With roads to the park still closed yesterday morning, the RSPCA SA team was escorted into the area by the Australian Army.
“When we first arrived there was no electricity or water,” RSPCA South Australia veterinarian Gayle Kothari said.
“We were treating koalas in a kitchen in the dark with just torchlight to see by, while another team was out under the patio.
“Most koalas had burns to all four feet and at least 40 had severe burns.
“Some had burns inside their nostrils, inside their ears and all of them were dehydrated and in poor body condition.”
According to Dr Kothari, most of the koalas brought into the park were mating females and a couple had joeys, which wildlife staff are bottle feeding.
Inspector Cheryl Doudle described the efforts of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park staff and volunteers as heroic.
“They are working in such difficult conditions, round the clock, 24 hours a day,” Inspector Doudle said.
“They’re treating burns, bottle feeding milk to koala joeys – it’s full on, non-stop and they’re doing a great job.”
After a morning briefing with local vets from SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management) and PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions South Australia), the RSPCA South Australia team has today headed out in convoy with SAVEM and the army. They are hoping to reach the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, which was hit hard by fires on Friday January 3. Teams will also be working around Vivonne Bay, which came under threat from the latest flare-ups.
The Kangaroo Island deployment is expected to be long-term, with rotating teams from RSPCA South Australia lined up to assist over coming weeks.