Update posted by Eve Kelly 10th Jan 2020
Re: https://au.news.yahoo.com/first-responders-directed-to-kill-baby-koalas-on-fire-ground-061755955.htm and the AWPC’s 2018 website article https://awpc.org.au/andrews-government-is-set-to-kill-baby-koalas-and-other-protected-wildlife-that-survive-bush-fire-write-to-government-now/
On Jan 10th 2020, Andy Meddick MP published a response, from DELWP, saying the recent media on the fire ground rescue of wildlife is ‘categorically untrue’. It is also being reported that this story is ‘fake news’ and in light of the current BOT situation it is very damaging if the public thinks that real news is fake.
DELWP’s statement (below) relates closely to a Yahoo article and an article that was published on the Australian Wildlife Protection Council’s (AWPC) website in 2018. The article was written by wildlife advocates and me. I am the former Secretary of the AWPC, former employee of Wildlife Victoria and wildlife rescuer and shelter operator for the past 10 years.
Andy Meddick MP reported on Facebook:
Today I had a forthright phone conference with key DEWLP figures and the Minister’s Senior Advisor.
I bluntly put to them the issues facing rescuers and carers, as well as concerns expressed online about rescuing young wildlife.
I have been able to facilitate a meeting between wildlife rescue & carer representatives and DEWLP next week to advance the plan for better response – and they’ve also issued a statement on the rescue of young wildlife, which is below.
They also told me that these are the guidelines in place at the fire zone: https://bit.ly/36xu1OF
(* Please note the above document is a copy of the Wildlife Shelter and Foster Carer Authorisation (WSFCA) and not the Fire Response Manual in question—DELWP have not yet addressed the Fire Response manual that they gave to vets and wildlife rescuers during training in 2018 (and possibly 2019))
I promised I would get this for you – and here it is. I’m also committed to keeping this discussion with them ongoing, and of course, keeping them accountable.
I hope you will all understand that at this time, it’s difficult for me to continue to answer all comments but I am doing my best to get information to you.
There’s a lot of work to be done to get change enacted for wildlife. I will be working hard on it over the coming weeks, and I also intend to continue to make as many trips into affected areas as I can with medical supplies and food.
Thank you all for your passion, dedication and patience.
Eve Kelly writes:
I thought you might be interested in some more information proving that DELWP are producing concerning material, in more than one form, about the rescue and care of Australian wildlife.
This issue resurfaced after members of the public read an article the AWPC published, back in Dec 2018. It was not written in response to the current bush fires. Now that the current crisis has put wildlife in the spotlight, people are researching wildlife, and so came across and shared the 2018 AWPC article.
In 2018, the AWPC was contacted by wildlife rescuers and carers about a fire ground document ‘Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire pdf’, pg. 26′ (Response Plan), being used by DELWP in fire ground wildlife rescue training. They were understandably concerned. It is not a public document to my knowledge. The AWPC article (not DELWP’s doc) was written in conjunction with experienced wildlife advocates.
It is purely DELWP’s information in the Response Plan that was discussed and reported on by the AWPC. For DELWP to continue to act dishonestly, confuse and concern the public and to pit wildlife volunteers against one another is very concerning indeed.
For the record, in relation to Andy Meddick MP’s statement today, no one has made any claims about, or taken information out of the Wildlife Shelter and Foster Carer Authorisation (WSFCA). It’s the 2018 Response Plan manual that gives the concerning and contradictory information.
Pinky joeys (eyes closed, furless, under-developed) on and off the fire ground, are rarely viable. Of course, if an animal is burnt or injured so badly that it can’t be rehabilitated, and is suffering, it is best to euthanase—a decision rescuers and shelters deal with every day. For DELWP to imply that wildlife carers/rescuers would want wildlife to suffer is insulting.
DELWP’s Response Plan was given to wildlife rescuers during DELWP fire ground training in 2018 and possibly in 2019. It is worth noting that very similar ‘ideas’ were floated in the ATCW review document DELWP, also published in 2018 ‘https://engage.vic.gov.au/download_file/11287/1422’. They are DELWP’s words not ours.
DELWP states that the information circulating is categorically untrue, but then only goes onto explain the WSFCA. No one is disputing the WSFCA, at this stage. But they have not addressed why they printed the following in the 2018 Response Plan on p26:
‘Rehabilitation of orphaned milk-dependent pouch young of common species such as macropods and koalas is not supported as these animals require significant long term care and cannot be successfully returned to the wild.’
Considerations for euthanasia
General indications that an animal should be
- burns that cover more than 15% of the total body surface area (see Figure 4). This is likely to have occurred when most of the body hair is singed. For example, a koala with four feet burnt, top and bottom with burns to nose, chin and eyes
- evidence of severe dehydration suggestive of renal failure
- presence of an infectious disease
- broken limbs
- orphaned milk dependent pouch young
- genetic or other deformities.’
As you can see, they don’t mention pinkies (eyes closed, furless), the only say ‘milk dependant young’ and then go on to imply that they can’t be hand-raised and released successfully back into the wild. They need to remove this material from their documents, as it is categorically untrue!
Why does DELWP have this dishonest approach?
The Response Plan’s intro says ‘The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) is the designated lead agency for wildlife welfare arising from a declared emergency as defined in the Emergency Management Manual Victoria (EMMV).
The purpose of this manual is to provide:
- the policy context and planning framework for the safe, humane and efficient response to wildlife impacted by fire.
– minimising risks to health and safety of personnel and the public
– responding to wildlife welfare arising from the incident and treat impacted wildlife as humanely as possible
– creating a framework to enable the safe involvement of volunteer organisations
– encouraging the involvement of volunteer organisations and the wider community, wherever it is safe and reasonable to do so
– managing incidents efficiently and cost effectively
- current ‘best practice’ standard operating procedures and protocols for assessing, treating and rehabilitating wildlife impacted by fire in Victoria, and
- a training manual for responders.
This manual focuses on the processes that must be followed by all individuals participating in response and recovery activities in relation to wildlife impacted by fire and planned burning.
Wildlife response activities may also arise from other emergency incidents such as floods or toxic and hazardous chemical spills. While the emergency response roles and structures should mirror those defined in this manual, the detail of how to respond to these types of emergency incidents are not covered by this manual. Compliance with this manual is a requirement of all individuals participating in response and recovery activities relating to wildlife affected by fire. Any plan, instruction, prescription, training or guideline developed for wildlife welfare response activities in Victoria must be consistent with this manual.
The audience for this document is:
- Incident Management Team members undertaking fire response or planned burning activities where wildlife either have been impacted or there is a potential for them to be impacted
- DELWP regional and State controllers (as a reference document)
- Agency staff deployed to undertake wildlife rescue activities
- Veterinarians undertaking wildlife triage, and
- Personnel in DELWP conducted training.
This manual will be reviewed on an annual basis to consider changes in legislation, governance arrangements, policies and procedures as well as to apply learnings from research and field experience and feedback from the community, stakeholders
and incident personnel.’
The Response Plan states, ‘This manual focuses on the processes that must be followed by all individuals participating in response and recovery activities in relation to wildlife impacted by fire and planned burning.’ It doesn’t say it is superseded by the WSFCA. This isn’t the first time DELWP has released contradictory information. It also says, ‘Any plan, instruction, prescription, training or guideline developed for wildlife welfare response activities in Victoria must be consistent with this manual’.
So, who is being categorically untrue?
It is worth noting that none of what DELWP produces to regulate wildlife is policy or legislation, they are all protocols, suggestions or guidelines. None the less, they enact them as if they were law.
Vague phrases like ‘not supported’ can be interpreted in many ways, by wildlife rescuers and DELWP staff alike. However, I find the bit after more concerning, ‘as these animals require significant long term care and cannot be successfully returned to the wild.’ This statement is untrue and not backed by good scientific research. If DELWP produces these documents, we can’t blame people asking questions, especially in such an ethically important area as wildlife rescue and rehab.
We need clear, regulatory documents that don’t contradict themselves from one paragraph to the next and from document to document—like the WSFCA and Response Plans do—our wildlife is too important!
Let’s hope they change this info, after this public review. DELWP should remove this information from all documentation immediately and confirm with the public.
**The below story was originally posted on our website in 2018. Please scroll down for the sample letter to send to the Premier.
‘God help any Victorian native animals injured rescued from bushfire areas. It is the policy of the Daniel Andrews Govt that all viable milk dependent joeys of kangaroos, wombats and koalas be automatically killed.’ Says a concerned wildlife shelter operator
DELWP’s fire ground regulations read ‘Rehabilitation of orphaned milk-dependant pouch young of common species such as macropods and koalas is not supported as these animals require significant long term care and cannot be successfully returned to the wild’
See the document from DELWP here: ‘p 26. Victorian-Response-Plan-for-Wildlife-Impacted-by-Fire‘
Last year DELWP released the below suggestion on their Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) permit system review. They should remember that all extinct, endangered and threatened species were all once ‘common’.
‘Not allowing the rehabilitation of Eastern Grey Kangaroos or other overabundant species
Wildlife shelters and foster carers invest significant time and resources rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Given that the species is overabundant in many areas and is the species that the majority of ATCWs are issued for, some members of the community have suggested that the species should not be able to be rehabilitated under the wildlife shelter system.
A restriction on rehabilitating Eastern Grey Kangaroos has been in place in the ACT for many years, as the species is overabundant in the territory and is subject to significant control activities to protect property and biodiversity values.
While this is outside the scope of the ATCW review, it may be considered in future reviews of the wildlife shelter system, as it may save significant shelter resources and reduce the impact of the species on landholders. In this context, it may also be appropriate to consider whether the rehabilitation of unprotected wildlife, such as wombats, cockatoos or possums, should be disallowed or restricted to areas where such wildlife is not over-abundant (e.g. wombats found outside the parishes where the unprotection order applies).’
This idea was ‘floated by the community’ according to DELWP. The since have backdown due to pressure from the public and wildlife activists. See the full doc here, the above information appeared on page 31. How do they know what is ‘overabundant’ when we know they don’t do proper counts?
Daniel Andrews is set to kill baby koalas!
Please write/email the Victorian government and express your concern about the unethical treatment orphaned native wildlife on the fire ground and elsewhere. Feel free to use/cut and paste the draft letter (complied by VOWS members) below.
Please write to:
Minister Lily D’Ambrosio
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change
Ground Office 2
30 Oleander Drive, Mill Park
Premier Daniel Andrews
Office of the Premier
1 Treasury Place
AND your local members
Insert name of Minister here
Insert email address
Insert your full name
Insert your postal address
Insert your email address
Insert your phone number
Dear insert title and name,
My name is ………… and I live at …………… I wish to express my outrage and concern that in an irresponsible and callous move the Daniel Andrews’ Government has installed regulations to euthanase any surviving joeys of ‘common species’, including koalas, that are found on the fire ground. Viable, healthy joeys are now to be killed if they survive bush fires, this is unacceptable.
This year his government signaled that it is interested in adopting a short-sighted catastrophic policy that will see ALL sick, injured and orphaned kangaroos, wombats, possums, cockatoos and any species they deem to be ‘overabundant’ KILLED instead of rescued and rehabilitated. This unjustified policy may act to drive wildlife carers underground and will see members of the public refusing to hand over animals to vets and shelters in the fear that they will be automatically killed. This will ultimately result in horrendous and widespread animal suffering.
Trained and experienced wildlife carers and rescuers, provide a service to the community that the pubic expects and the government fails to and cannot provide.
Volunteers fund all wildlife rescue and rehabilitation from their own pockets with no funding from the state government except for a tokenistic and inadequate annual wildlife shelter grant. They make themselves available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Yet the Andrews’ Government is planning to strip the community of this invaluable service, declaring that it is too costly to raise these animals and that they want to free up shelter resources. This cynical and disingenuous ploy is an insulting falsehood considering the lack of government funding and it’s own policies and procedures that put the welfare of wildlife at risk on a daily basis across all sectors.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of trained and experienced rescuers across Victoria rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife. No one else can give the same level of service with the commitment, dedication and efficiency that we provide. No Government budget would be big enough and no department would be competent enough to achieve the same outcomes.
Carers and rescuers, are committed to rescuing injured animals and they will continue to euthanase when necessary. But, I don’t agree they should become Andrew’s ‘killing machines’ to slaughter viable and healthy animals to facilitate a policy that is morally corrupt with no scientific merit. It is incomprehensible that the bureaucrats have not considered the psychological impacts these cruel policies will have on wildlife rescuers, carers and the veterinarians, who will be expected to undertake the killing, let alone the impact on members of the community who also encounter wildlife in need.
This is an urgent wake up call to the predicament of Victoria’s native wildlife that are in the incapable hands of a mega-department that is actively working to harm and exploit them for political and economic gain. We ask everyone to contact Victorian parliamentarians and tell them that wildlife and wildlife volunteers are valued. They must remember that Australia has the highest rate of mammalian extinction on the planet and that all ‘threatened’ and ‘extinct species’ were once considered ‘common and secure’.