Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness

by NSW Wildlife Information Rescue & Education Service (WIRES)
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness
Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness

Following Australia's devastating flood crisis which continues to cause devastation across vast areas, here is a summary of the Disaster Response and Recovery we deployed.

Preparation and Initial Relief 

Within days of the initial floods in March 2022, WIRES had contacted all of our Wildlife Carers across flood impacted areas and 20 external wildlife groups  

Over a six-week period, we assisted wildlife carers spanning two states. Many carers were overwhelmed with rescue requests, had lost equipment and wildlife food in the floods and did not have finances available to replace what they urgently needed.  

Emergency Response in action 

Two Emergency Responders with two fully equipped Wildlife Ambulances were deployed to the most affected regions, to assist with emergency flood recovery. In addition, two Responders each equipped with a Wildlife Ambulance assisted with flood efforts in Sydney.

Their key role was to assist with the most critical rescues, and to transport and translocate rescued native animals, taking pressure off local carers and vet clinics so they could focus on recovery. 

Our Head Office Incident Management Team was activated to assist with the huge coordination of flood rescue effortsAll teams worked closely to prioritise and respond to incoming flood rescue calls

Caring for Rescued Wildlife 

We’ll never know how many native animals were drowned in this ongoing flood crisis, but burrow and ground dwelling animals were particularly affected, and WIRES had record numbers of wombats in care. We also had significant numbers of waterlogged birds, and an increase in orphans across many species. 

Sometimes, native animals were simply displaced through flooding and needed time to dry out, rest and recuperate. 

We're committed to building the capacity of Wildlife Emergency Response and Recovery across Austraia and we thank you for all you've helped us do, and for all that we are now doing, to secure the survival of our native animals.

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Matty the koala in care
Matty the koala in care

Your support is enabling critical help for koalas  

Every time a displaced, injured or sick koala is reported to our Wildlife Rescue Office we send out a Critical Alert so help can reach them without delay. With our koala populations besieged by habitat loss, increased traffic and the terrible impacts of chlamydia, we are now sending critical koala alerts almost every day and have assisted more than 650 desperate koalas in the past year. 

One such koala was Matty (pictured above), who was discovered in a back garden in Sydney last month. With his habitat all but gone, we believe the young koala was frightened by a dog and had tried to escape by scrambling over a fence and into the chimney of a BBQ, where he was discovered by a concerned member of the public.  

This little koala was one of the lucky ones. Whilst he was quite small for his suspected age (likely the result of a lack of available food trees) he is now recuperating with his WIRES carer and will hopefully be released back into protected habitat soon.  

 

Safe-guarding short-tailed Shearwaters on Philip Island  

Phillip Island in the state of Victoria is home to a colony of over a million native short-tailed shearwaters. This migratory bird is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change and is in steady decline.   

On Philip Island they have an additional problem. Every year as young fledglings prepare for their first flight, they often make their way onto roads and are hit by cars.    

To mitigate this tragedy WIRES has contributed more than $49,800 as part of our National Grants Program to help rangers safeguard the population, particularly during the all-important fledgling season. The Rangers play a huge role in protecting these birds by moving them off the roads, and by making sure the community is aware of the birds through signage, slower speed limits and by encouraging ‘lights off’ in homes and businesses because the birds are often disorientated by light pollution. 

In the coming weeks, hundreds of fledging shearwaters will be leaving their burrows to make their first 15,000 km migration north to join their parents on the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. They will return to the Southern hemisphere within 5-7 years where they’ll contribute to the growing colony on Phillip Island. It takes a community to protect a highly vulnerable bird species! 

 

An ongoing food source for our native wildlife   

As part of a joint project with a local Council in the state of New South Wales, WIRES volunteers have been planting trees in a bid to provide local wildlife with an ongoing food source (pictured below). Council staff and WIRES volunteers recently planted over 300 native trees, which will soon provide vital nourishment to the injured and sick native animals in WIRES’ care. Increased development is causing a severe loss of habitat and food sources for our native wildlife so this team effort is a much-needed initiative. Let’s hope the idea takes off with other local councils!   

This is your work in action through supporting the Aussie Wildlife Recovery & Emergency Preparedness project - on behalf of the 130,000 native animals you helped us assist in the last year, thank you!

WIRES volunteers planted over 300 native trees
WIRES volunteers planted over 300 native trees

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Dear Friend,  

Throughout late February and the month of March, many parts of the east coast of Australia were in the grips of catastrophic floods. These floods have been unprecedented in their scale, and the repercussions on communities, the environment and our wildlife have been devastating. These instances are what our Emergency Preparedness project is for, and why your support is so vital.

There have been many instances where wildlife has been rescued. Like this swamp wallaby pulled from water by a member of the public, Owen is now in care with another orphaned joey. With time he will hopefully be released back into his natural habitat. Others were sadly not so lucky.  

These kinds of catastrophic weather events are what we try our best to be prepared for, with these events only becoming more frequent in the coming years.  

WIRES Emergency Flood Response  

During the floods  

WIRES rapidly made contact with volunteers and rescue groups across the impacted areas to see how they were and find out what assistance may be needed for impacted wildlife.  

Our rescue teams conducted search and rescue operations across flood affected districts where water had receded, and areas were safe to access. Our Emergency Response Van was active in search and rescue activities, attending critical rescues, providing vital advice, and supporting our thousands of volunteers as they care for sick, injured, and displaced wildlife  

Exhausted seabirds, drenched possums, orphaned wallaby's and kangaroo joeys, were just a few rescued by our Emergency Response Van and volunteers. We ordered and coordinated the delivery of support food for wildlife that were isolated or surrounded by water.  

In some areas our very experienced volunteers assisted in vet clinics to triage native animals as vets were cut off from their clinics  

We worked with local emergency support partners to ensure that volunteers and impacted wildlife got access to essential provisions as quickly as possible.  

This is the work we do, day in, day out, for Australia's vulnerable wildlife.  

Post-Flood recovery  

As the floods recede and access becomes possible, our teams have continued to reach into flood affected areas to rescue native animals in desperate need.  

Vital supplies, including equipment, medical kits, foods and supplements are now hitting the ground, and our fully equipped emergency rescue vans are conducting search and rescue missions across flood impacted areas.  

WIRES Rescue Office continues to operate 24/7 and our dedicated staff are managing floods calls from the community, vets and volunteers. WIRES have received 4,932 calls to our Emergency Rescue line since 1st March. We believe this is only a fraction of the real impact on wildlife as mobile reception in flood areas is still limited.  

We have two full-time Emergency Responders attending urgent rescues, collecting fruit from the supermarket Woolworths for wildlife in need, and dropping off supplies to volunteers.  

In addition to our network of volunteer carers, WIRES has been distributing urgent items to external wildlife rescue organisations and groups, thanks to the Woolworths WIRES Food for Wildlife Program  

We’re also continuing to work with our partner Animal Rescue Cooperative (ARC), which mobilised quickly after floods hit. WIRES and ARC are providing wildlife food, cleaning products, rescue and care equipment, medical supplies and clean water to those in need.  

Research Grant  

On a brighter note, WIRES has announced it will fund a $1.5 million wildlife research grants program to be launched early 2022. This program will be run in-conjunction with the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales (RSZ NSW).  

The objective of the WIRES RSZ Wildlife Research Grants program is to address the significant knowledge gaps surrounding Australian native species including biology, ecology, and conservation. Recent major ecological tragedies including drought, fires, and floods as well as an ever-growing threatened species list have clearly highlighted the vulnerability of native animals and the need to find effective strategies to mitigate major threats.  

Focus of research will cover habitat and species recovery post emergencies, emergency risk reduction and preparedness, and species conservation.  

Looking Foward 

It's apparent that after the disastrous Black Summer fires, drought and now floods, Australian wildlife needs our help more than ever, and will continue doing so. 

We are sincerely grateful to the members of the public who've taken the time to call WIRES when they've encountered sick, injured and orphaned native animals - and for those who are helping in so many other ways.  

Everybody who has contributed to this project is playing an important role in the preservation and ongoing health and welfare of Australia’s very unique and special native animals. Thank you again for your support. 

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Orphaned Koala joey, rescued by WIRES October 2021
Orphaned Koala joey, rescued by WIRES October 2021

While we have spent a great deal of time in the last two years developing and delivering multiple wildlife recovery programs and working on emergency preparedness plans we also remain focused on the animals requiring rescue and care every day.

The young koala joey pictured above was a recent rescue in Queensland where one of our Emergency Response Vehicles and Emergency Response team member, Amy are based. The ERT van provides valuable rescue assistance in a region where urban development is fragmenting and destroying valuable habitat and having an enormous impact on the koala populations there.

If you would like to receive monthly rescue stories about our ongoing rescue work with wildlife you can register to receive our enews directly to your inbox. 

MAJOR GRANT PROGRAM FOR THE AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE SECTOR

Since our last report we are excited to have launched a new $5million grants program to improve outcomes for Australia’s native wildlife. The grants will provide support for dedicated wildlife volunteers and organisations across Australia.

The National Grant Program will be run over five years and will support best practice wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, native species recovery projects and increase emergency preparedness.

We are really encouraging sector collaboration in this ground-breaking grant program,” said WIRES Projects and Grants Manager, Jennie Murray. “By supporting expertise and sharing knowledge between wildlife rehabilitators, researchers, conservation professionals and community groups we believe this will result in the best outcomes for native species.”

MORE SUPPORT FOR VITAL TURTLE CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

We have also committed to supporting more projects to address the vital conservation of endangered turtle species. 

A global assessment of turtle populations has identified that half of the 360 turtle and tortoise species worldwide face imminent extinction. In Australia a range of factors has seen a 91% decline of Australia’s most common turtle species over the last 40 years. Key factors include attacks from invasive predators, road mortality, habitat destruction, water quality degradation and extreme weather events such as drought and bushfires.

“The trajectory for turtle populations worldwide is nothing short of alarming,” said WIRES Chief Operating Officer, Kyla Shelley. “We are thrilled researchers, conservation groups, wildlife organisations, government agencies and the community are coming together to address this urgent issue.”

Our initiatives to support Australia's turtles include partnering with Western Sydney University on a new project to Future Proof Freshwater Turtle Populations.

A WIRES grant will help establish a breeding program for two endangered freshwater turtle species identified by the Australian Government Bushfire Recovery Panel as requiring urgent intervention. A breeding, release and research program is being set up for the Manning River and Bell’s River Turtles.

LOOKING FORWARD

Although it is two years since the catastrophic drought and bushfires decimated wildlife populations and habitat across much of eastern Australia, every day we are faced with situations that remind us there is still so much more to do. The need to provide support for threatened species, for building rescue and treatment capacity, supporting volunteers through training and better understanding of the most effective solutions through wildlife research.

Everyone who has contributed and continues to support this project is helping to improve the health and welfare of Australia’s very unique and special native animals. Thank you.

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Manning River helmeted turtle, image by Veda
Manning River helmeted turtle, image by Veda
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Rescued Kangaroo joey in care with WIRES
Rescued Kangaroo joey in care with WIRES

Thanks to you, we are continuing to provide support for Australian animals. As we move further into the recovery phase we are collaborating with a broad range of organisations to fund projects that address the impacts of the changed environmental landscape, support the recovery of wildlife habitat and the long-term preservation of native species.

During this stage a key element is building national capacity and enhancing emergency response to reduce the risk to wildlife when future emergencies strike. By forming strong alliances and providing funding for long-term programs we are rolling out numerous projects and programs across Australia.

Some of the key projects in this phase are outlined below:

Professional Veterinary Wildlife Training

Funding has been provided to Vets Beyond Borders to train 50-60 more vets and/or vet nurses to treat wildlife within the next 12 months. This will significantly improve capacity to treat more animals impacted by future emergency events and ongoing environmental changes.

Wildlife Training Grants

In the aftermath of the Summer of 2020 we developed a course to help existing wildlife rescue organisations to recruit and train more volunteers.

Our Training Grants allow members from eligible rescue organisations access to WIRES training for free, allowing them to recruit and train more volunteers in basic wildlife rescue. WIRES has already confirmed support for 525 volunteers across 11 organisations as part of this grant program.

In conjunction with other emergency preparedness plans it is key to increase ongoing rescue and care capacity, to be able to assist more sick, injured and orphaned wildlife on an ongoing basis, and in response to major emergencies.

NSW Rehabilitation Capacity Building

The state of NSW bore the brunt of the 2020 fires with more than 5.5 million hectares destroyed or impacted. Over the coming weeks we will be starting a major project to identify current rehabilitation gaps and identify key facilities and capacity requirements for specific species across the state.

This project will:

  • Map existing facilities to understand current capacity
  • Analyse rescue data to understand regional needs and trends
  • Analyse availability of trained volunteers by species in each region
  • Seek to understand gaps and requirements for optimal capacity and best practice care
  • Improve understanding of local needs, gaps and requirements for prioritising capacity needs 

Wildlife Research Grants Program

Our Wildlife Research Grants Program will be launching in early 2022 in conjunction with the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

The objective of this program is to address the significant knowledge gaps surrounding Australian native species including biology, ecology, and conservation. Recent major ecological tragedies including drought, fires, and floods as well as an ever-growing threatened species list have clearly highlighted the vulnerability of native animals and the need to find effective strategies to mitigate major threats.

Research will focus on habitat and species recovery post emergencies, emergency risk reduction and preparedness, and species conservation.

Koala Health Hub update

The Koala Health Hub (KHH) at the University of Sydney was the recipient of a three-year grant from WIRES. The grant has sustained the KHH and allowed it to respond to a dramatic increase in need for koala care and management following long-term drought, loss of habitat and other significant impacts on their populations.

WIRES and KHH work together to deliver improved health outcomes for koalas and this funding has allowed KHH to implement new initiatives and projects.

One of the recent initiatives is the establishment of ‘’Koalavet’’ an online video forum for koala/wildlife vets across Australia where some of the key topics being covered are:

  • Criteria for triage
  • New approaches to the treatment of chlamydia disease
  • Approaches to the treatment of burns
  • Chlamydia testing and evaluation

Future Plans

The droughts, bushfires and floods of the last two years remind us that our wildlife continues to be significantly challenged by environmental changes and mass habitat reduction. There is still an enormous need for support for threatened species in particular and for building capacity, in volunteer numbers, training, wildlife treatment knowledge, wildlife research and identifying future rehabilitation facility requirements.

Everybody who has contributed to this project is playing an important role in the preservation and ongoing health and welfare of Australia’s very unique and special native animals. Thank you again for your support.

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Organization Information

NSW Wildlife Information Rescue & Education Service (WIRES)

Location: Brookvale, NSW - Australia
Website:
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Twitter: @WIRESWildlife
Project Leader:
Frances Parkinson
Warringah Mall, NSW Australia
$1,481,067 raised of $2,000,000 goal
 
1,632 donations
$518,933 to go
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