Scale of Kangaroo Island devastation emerges as more areas reached
RSPCA South Australia’s team on Kangaroo Island have today assisted officers from PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions) in the grim task of assessing and euthanasing wildlife and farm animals, mainly sheep. The animals were on properties located at Cape Borda, north of Flinders Chase National Park, which has been decimated by bushfires.
PIRSA today reported that a total 42,727 sheep, 1,152 cattle, 6 horses and 52 other farm animals have either been killed in the Kangaroo Island fires or been euthanased as a result of injuries suffered during the fires.
Meanwhile, veterinary teams remain busy at the main wildlife triage centre, located at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in Parndana. About 30 animals are coming in each day, mainly koalas but also some wallabies, possums, monitor lizards and birds.
RSPCA South Australia’s chief veterinarian Dr Brad Ward, who was part of the second RSPCA team deployed to the island, spent long days working within the SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management) field tent, where more than 100 burned koalas are now in care.
“It’s the first disaster zone I’ve been to and it’s overwhelming when you realise the vast majority of koalas on the island have lost their habitat and a significant number have died in the fire,” Dr Ward said.
“It’s gone from a situation where there was probably an overpopulation of koalas a few years ago, to now where they’re under-population – providing a habitat for those that are recovering will be tough.”
In one of many examples of heart-warming teamwork, RSPCA rescue officers were assisted by members of the Beulah Park CFS brigade in capturing a female koala and her joey found on a burnt out property. After being assessed by Dr Ward as unharmed by the fires, the RSPCA team released the animals in one of the few remaining areas of habitat.
RSPCA South Australia staff have also assisted the Australian Army and PIRSA in assessing and treating a mob of 4,500 sheep that survived when fire tore through the Flinders Chase Farm Stay. The property’s owners managed to save almost every one of their animals and just 12 required treatment for burns.
Recovery efforts are expected to ramp up over coming days as more areas are accessed, with RSPCA South Australia teams continuing to work on the island for as long as they are required.
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RSPCA SA chief veterinarian Dr Brad Ward with a koala joey rescued from the Kangaroo Island fire ground.
BACKGROUND: The western half of Kangaroo Island was home to approximately 25,000 koalas. The island has Australia’s only chlamydia-free koalas. Koalas brought from the island to the mainland are not allowed to return as a measure to ensure the island remains free of the infectious bacteria which, while not usually fatal, can severely impact a koala’s health