Tag Archives: bushfires 2019-20

Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire, updated

vic-response-plan-wildlife fires

Wildlife impacted by fire

THE DEPARTMENT OF Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is the lead agency responsible for managing wildlife impacted by fire in accordance with the Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire . The Response Plan has been reviewed and updated in consultation with the wildlife welfare sector in response to the 2019–20 bushfire season.

Wildlife in areas impacted by fire can be disoriented, smoke-affected and dehydrated. Some may also be suffering from burns and other injuries. Following a fire, it is expected that injured and uninjured wildlife will be seen moving through and near the fire ground.

Members of the public are urged to take care if attempting to help injured or distressed animals outside of the fire area.  Improper rescue techniques by untrained or inexperienced persons can cause further distress or injury to the animal and put the rescuer at risk.  Motorists should watch out for displaced animals along roadsides.

During a fire, the Incident Controller will determine if a wildlife response is required. Fire grounds are dangerous, even after the fire front has passed. Individuals, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups must not self-deploy to search for wildlife.

Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire

The purpose of the Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire (the Plan) is to define how DELWP, its partner agencies, contractors and volunteers will respond to wildlife welfare arising from fire. The Plan also defines how this will occur under Victoria’s emergency management arrangements.


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Volunteers keep wildlife alive for months post fire


Image source: M Fillinger.

COVID-19 HAS CLOGGED the news and taken up just about all our interest and thoughts over the last several months. However, for many volunteers their work and minds are still heavily focused on help and care for wildlife since the ‘Black Summer’ fires (seen above).

The effort by volunteer groups goes on months after the event. After the Carwoola fires in February 2017, regional volunteers at Wildcare were support-feeding for eight months post fires.

Volunteer wildlife care organisations and helping groups pulled resources and funds from a wide range of donors to provide adequate care for the countless injured, defenceless, displaced and hungry animals post last season’s fires. The efforts of these organisations are still continuing in and around the capital region, the mountains, Braidwood, Monaro and the coastal hinterland, months after the last fires were extinguished.

Still counting the dead and missing

We are only just starting to gauge the amount of death and loss the Black Summer bushfires have had on Australia’s wildlife. A recent study, funded by WWF Australia, found that almost 3 billion animals have been killed or displaced by the fires. While these are staggering numbers, University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman, who coordinated the study, said the figure is still a conservative estimate.

President of Wildcare Queanbeyan, Belinda Hogarth, said they have seen a devastating number of killed or injured wildlife since the fires. “In one of the cases a property owner found 14 charred Greater Gliders, which are a threatened species.”

Wildcare has been at the forefront of animal care post fires. Hogarth said the causes of animal death and injury goes far beyond the initial fire and even if the animal survives the fire they still face many dangers and threats.

“Everyone thinks it’s about burned animals and largely it’s not. A lot of it isn’t the initial fire that kills or injures the animal, it’s usually secondary from walking around after the fires when they are looking for food, or they just starve to death.”

“On top of this many animals suffer from smoke inhalation or, since so much trees and bushland are gone, the animals are much more susceptible to predator attacks by cats and foxes.”

(Editor’s note:  Or are tempted to eat poison baits spread by government authorities.)

Feeding wildlife post fire

Wildcare’s major focus since the fires has been on feeding displaced animals threatened by starvation. Hogarth said for a long time after the fires there is little to no food for the majority of the animals. The bigger macropods like kangaroos can escape whereas wallabies or other mammals such as wombats or quolls or potoroos are smaller so they don’t travel as far and they like forested areas. This means a lot of them don’t leave and instead find shelter, but once they surface they no longer have any feed.

Even once the trees start to grow the first wave of leaves is often toxic to animals as the tree is trying to protect itself. As well as this the first grass after a fire has a high water content so it has very poor nutrition for the animals.

Food distributed on Tallaganda 40 properties; community groups heeded the call

To combat this severe lack of food, Wildcare has been putting out food lots on volunteered properties in heavily affected areas. “In Tallaganda alone we had food lots on 40 properties with up to ten stations on particular properties but now we are down to just eight properties,” said Hogarth.

Generous donations by NGOs and private sources gave Wildcare the funding that they needed to supply food, blankets and medical care to the animals. The World Wildlife Fund donated $100,000 to Wildcare and Hogarth said they saw a massive increase in donations by community groups and private donors.

“There was a singing group in Canberra that held a concert and they gave us the money from that, then other groups such Queanbeyan council gave us $5,000 and the International Federation for Animal Welfare gave us a further $6,000,” said Hogarth.

Wildcare also saw donations of resources such as blankets, rags and linen. Hogarth said that nurses, vets and paramedics donating medical equipment that proved vital during the fires. The Southern Cross 4WD Club, again proved very useful with vehicles that could get Wildcare into difficult off-road locations. Wildcare also asked landowners to put out water and feed for birds.

Wildcare estimated volunteers saved over 700 mammals from starvation as well as additional reptiles and birds.

Koala rescue at Two Thumbs

Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust koala sanctuary east of Captains Flat lost up to 200 koalas, said sanctuary owner James Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald also estimates over 1,000 more koalas were killed in the greater capital region.

koala-burned-feet-bushfires-2019-2020Many of the koalas that were rescued and brought into care at Two Thumbs had to be treated for major burns they had received after walking around once the fires had passed. Fitzgerald and his team have found close to 50 koalas since the fires. However, ten of those had to be euthanised due to serious burns.

“When we first started finding the koalas during the fires most of the time you’d find them with serious burns on the hands and feet because they have been walking around on the burning ground. We also saw a lot of koalas with unkempt fur because they stop grooming themselves when they are injured or sick,” said Fitzgerald.

He said that koalas have no chance of escaping the fires and the ones that survive just happen to be holding onto a tree that doesn’t get burned down. The care that Two Thumbs has been providing is predominantly around treating burn wounds and inspecting koala eating habits. “When koalas are badly injured or stressed they won’t eat, so we study their droppings and see if they producing enough pellets.”

Fitzgerald’s colleague Dr Karen Ford had been caring for severely burned koalas at ANU (Australian National University) where she in some cases had to treat their wounds multiple times a day. They were gradually moved back to Two Thumbs.

Years to rebuild populations, but joeys seen

Two Thumbs has been one of the only sanctuaries with an increasing koala population. With the small number of animals, the best a koala population can increase is double in three years, or in ten years if there is a high presence of chlamydia in the population Fitzgerald said.

The good news is that while they have lost many koalas at the sanctuary, Fitzgerald said they are still seeing joeys which means the koalas are mating.

RELATED STORY:  Koalas get new home and firefighters honoured

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24 scientists wrote to these officials about flawed and cruel aerial baiting with 1080 poison


(underway now in NSW, regardless)

17 February 2020

To:   The Honourable Sussan Ley MP Minister for Environment, Australia
Address: Parliament House  CANBERRA ACT  2600

cc: The Honourable David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture, Australia (minister.littleproud@agriculture.gov.au)

cc: The Honourable Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Victoria (lily.dambrosio@parliament.vic.gov.au)

cc: The Honourable Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Agriculture, Victoria (jaclyn.symes@parliament.vic.gov.au)

cc: The Honourable Matthew Kean MP, Minister for Energy and Environment, New South Wales (office@kean.minister.nsw.gov.au)

cc: The Honourable Adam Marshall MP, Minister for Agriculture, New South Wales (adam.marshall@parliament.nsw.gov.au)

cc: Dr Sally Box, Threatened Species Commissioner (ThreatenedSpeciesCommissioner@environment.gov.au)

Re: dingo (wild dog) baiting in South-eastern Australia and bushfire recovery

Dear Minister/s,

The undersigned wish to express our expert opinion on the status of dingoes across Australia in light of the current bushfire emergency. At the time of writing, more than 10 million hectares has been burnt across Australia, including 1.2 million hectares in Victoria and 4.9 million hectares in New South Wales. Across south-eastern Australia this represents burning of major dingo habitat zones in National Parks and State Forests.

[Signatories are experts from the following fields: predator ecology, biology, archaeology, cultural heritage, social science, humanities, animal behaviour and genetics].

We commend the Federal, NSW and VIC State Governments for their focus on assisting fauna and flora recovery after the catastrophic 2019֪–2020 bushfire season, however, the proposed ‘feral predator’ aerial baiting plans are counterproductive to that aim.

In particular, we wish to express concern about plans to undertake widespread 1080 “wild dog” aerial baiting across burnt habitat in NSW and VIC.

No existing knowledge — impacts on native predators, eg quolls, dingos and goannas

Aerial baiting with 1080 poison poses an unacceptable risk to native predators such as quolls, dingoes and varanids because it is unknown if food scarcity in burnt landscape may increase bait consumption leading to poisoning of quolls or varanids. Furthermore, dingoes are highly susceptible to 1080 baiting and are included as a direct target of “wild dog” baiting efforts.

Importantly, best-practice guidelines to limit 1080 baiting impacts on quolls suggests that all baits should be buried to a depth of more than 10cm and “aerial or broadcast surface baiting should only be used in areas where it can be demonstrated that there is a low risk to spot-tailed quoll populations.” (EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.4 — Significant impact guidelines for the endangered spot-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (southeastern mainland population) and the use of 1080.)

Currently it is unknown how quolls and other non-target species will be impacted by aerial baiting in burnt habitat. Arguably, the recently proposed NSW “wildlife and conservation bushfire recovery” plan should be referred to the Federal Environment Minister under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for assessment.

Killing dingos exactly wrong thing to do if you want to suppress cats and foxes

Dingoes are the sole non-human land-based top predator on the Australian mainland. Their importance to the ecological health and resilience of Australian ecosystems cannot be overstated, from regulating wild herbivore abundance (eg various kangaroo species), to reducing the impacts of feral mesopredators (cats, foxes) on native marsupials (Johnson & VanDerWal 2009; Wallach et al. 2010; Letnic et al. 2012; Letnic et al. 2013; Newsome et al. 2015; Morris & Letnic 2017).

It would be hypothesised that continued dramatic reduction of dingo populations, by aerial baiting, will enable introduced mesopredators such as foxes and cats to exploit burnt areas unchecked, posing a high risk to threatened native species. The impacts of feral cats and red foxes are likely to be amplified in disturbed ecosystems, such as those burnt by bushfires. Indiscriminate and non-target specific lethal management should not be implemented if there is a risk to the persistence of threatened native fauna or ecosystem resilience.

Aerial baiting in bushfire affected south-eastern Australia is an unacceptable risk to native carnivores.

Here’s what SHOULD be happening post fire

We would urge the Federal, NSW and VIC State Governments to focus bushfire recovery efforts on proactive evidence-based measures including:

  • Installation of exclusion fences to protect recovering vegetation and wildlife communities (short-term).
  • Targeting lethal control measures to key refuge areas and important sites for remaining populations of threatened species.
  • Limiting lethal control to targeted methods such as shooting, trapping or ground-baiting where steps are taken to limit non-target bait consumption.
  • Providing supplemental shelter, food and water to identified remaining populations of threatened species.
  • Increasing post-fire weed control to protect regeneration efforts.


IMAGE: Susan Cruttenden.


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$1M Wildlife Carer Fund rorted by NSW government:


80% redirected to other programs — only 20% paid to wildlife carers.

THE NSW LABOR Opposition has disclosed that the state government’s much-hyped million dollar fund for wildlife carers in bushfire-affected regions has been rorted by the government itself, with only 22 percent of the money being paid to wildlife carers.

At least half of the Wildlife Carers Bushfire Fund has already been redirected to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to fund other programs, including $62,000 on mapping exercises and $438,000 on two new staff positions within the Department to oversee wildlife rehabilitators.

The NSW Labor Opposition has called for the full funds to be reinstated and given to wildlife carers as promised.

When the fund was announced — to much fanfare — the Environment Minister Matt Kean’s claimed that “the funding will help wildlife rehabilitators respond and prepare for natural emergencies. Community rehabilitation groups and the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife will be able to access the funds.”

However, answers provided by the Minister to supplementary budget estimates questions reveal that only $220,000 has been paid to wildlife rehabilitators, with $500,000 spent internally and the remaining $280,000 unspent, six months later.

According to the Minister, the remaining funds will now be allocated towards repairing damaged infrastructure and will not be given to wildlife carers.

“The Government has been caught red-handed rorting their own wildlife carer fund,” Labor’s environment spokesperson, Kate Washington, said.

“This money was meant to go into the hands of our incredible wildlife carers to help keep injured animals alive. Instead, the Government stole 80 percent of the funds, and only a fraction of the money made its way to actual wildlife carers. It’s reprehensible.”

“Some entire regions ravaged by bushfires only received $3,000 from this fund, like the Blue Mountains and the New England region. Meanwhile, $500,000 was sneakily redirected back to the Department itself.”

“Koala mapping is important, of course, and so is oversight. But if you promise one million dollars for wildlife carers, you should deliver on that promise. The government shouldn’t steal half the money to pay itself, and then redirect the rest to other programs.”

“Matt Kean should hang his head in shame for giving false hope to the hard-working volunteers who are still struggling to keep injured animals and ecosystems alive.”

“The Environment Department already has staff who liaise with and oversee wildlife carers. They were already doing environmental mapping following the bushfires. Why does the government need to steal 80 percent of this fund to cover its day-to-day work?”

“This Minister loves a cute and cuddly headline, but when push comes to shove, and when the media attention wanes, Matt Kean has quietly cut and run with the money.”

“Wildlife carers are amazing, their work is hard and heartbreaking — they deserve the support they were promised,” concluded Ms Washington.


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How the world is viewing Australia

Dear friends [of avaaz] across the world,

Hell on earth looks a lot like Australia right now. The fires are so big they are generating their own lightning — and they’ve killed more than a **BILLION** animals! 

A billion! It’s a wildlife holocaust!! Thousands of koalas have been roasted alive in the trees, while rare flying foxes are falling dead from the sky. Even worse, this nightmare could be a glimpse of our whole planet’s future if we don’t urgently tackle the climate crisis that caused it.

Even as their country burns, Australia’s leaders are denying climate change and trying to derail global action to reduce carbon pollution. We can’t let them win. So we’ll also bring all of our movement’s campaigning magic to face down blockers in Australia and all over the world ahead of crucial global climate talks later this year.

This is urgent — give what you can to help beat back Australia’s biodiversity apocalypse and spark the climate revolution our planet needs!

Can you imagine how brave you must be to run into the flames to save terrified animals? Across Australia, heroic wildlife rescuers are working against the clock to save animals from this catastrophe.

But to really make their heroism count, we must spark change in Australia — and that means taking on the powerful climate deniers who have the government in their grip. Right now, they’re flooding Australia with fake news to play down the link to climate change, but as deadly fires blaze through homes, businesses and schools, killing dozens and wrecking people’s lives, Australia’s leaders are under pressure like never before.

This is personal for me. My brother lives in Australia, and I want my precocious, curious young nephews to grow up looking for koalas up in the treetops, and not just hearing about them in the history books. I hope they’ll be able to look out over the ocean, without choking on ash. And I’d love them to hear stories about a time when the world came together to defend their country’s splendid natural beauty — a moment that was both a global wake-up call and a tipping point toward building the healthier, more sustainable world we all want.

With hope, love and lots of grit,

Joseph, Bert, Marigona, Martyna, Francesco, Patricia, Aloys,
and the whole Avaaz team


Number Of Animals Feared Dead In Australia’s Wildfires Soars To Over 1 Billion
(Huffington Post)

The world loves kangaroos and koalas. Now we are watching them die in droves (The Guardian)

Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide
(The New York Times)

Something else is out of control in Australia: climate disaster denialism
(The Guardian)

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate
(The New York Times)

The viral false claim that nearly 200 arsonists are behind the Australia fires, explained

Avaaz is seeking donations for post wildfire support with this edited post. There are many good organisations seeking donations and pledging support, so we are not going to boost one over the others, but consider your state and local wildlife rescue groups and also Humane Society International which pledges to help carers rebuild. And AWPC for campaigns in 2020 for respect and sharing with our wildlife.

IMAGE: Benny Marty, Dreamstime.


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Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW, Vic)


We join Sara Tilling and Gary Henderson once more, this time Sara talks about grief and loss and rebuilding the future from the caravan that is to be their temporary home. There is an impassioned thank you for the many of you from around the world that have given the support and kindness that will make a new future possible.

“Like us, all living creatures don’t want to die and will fight to survive. Sometimes despite all odds we hang in there, not yet ready to leave for many reasons. Maybe just because you find someone that is prepared to sit with you, love you and give it their all to help you. To give you the strength to fight.”
— Sara Tilling

The money donated to the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary will be spent on rebuilding the wildlife care and rehabilitation infrastructure and equipment, compounds, sheds and the like. Money will also be spent on revegetating the property with the native plant species that will help to give the animals who come to live at the sanctuary in the future, the very best chance of a happy and successful life. There is a vast amount of work to be done.

You can assist in this work by donating HERE.

NOTE: Why it is critically important to donate to people and organisations working on the front line of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Australia.

Sara mentions the attitudes of governments in Australia to wildlife and conservation. What has occurred over the last few days is telling. Some good, some very bad.

The Commonwealth Government of Australia (Canberra) has pledged $50 million to assist wildlife in the firegrounds across this vast continent. The states most impacted at this time are New South Wales (Cobargo), Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The $50 million in funding will be split between an expert advisory panel and community groups and Koalas will be a focus for restoration efforts, with as much as 30 per cent of Koala habitat destroyed. We shall see what happens.

In New South Wales, where some 8.5 million hectares have been destroyed and whose current government’s attitudes to wildlife conservation are nothing less than egregious appear to be planning on businesses as usual with no changes to lax wildlife laws or the level of commercial or other permits being issued. “DPIE will be monitoring fire and harvesting activity within the commercial management zones and will be engaging with commercial harvesters and animal dealers that may operate within the affected zones,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal is to ensure that Kangaroo populations remain ecologically sustainable.”

In Victoria, the Victorian Government, although details and how these are to be enforced are vague, has suspended its relatively new and doomed Kangaroo Pet Food Industry. The commercial wildlife industry in Victoria is doomed because much of the populations of species being exploited are now gone because of the large numbers of animals killed in the last few years. As far as I can tell the Victorian Government has no plans to put a stop to the vast scale culling of wildlife it claims to be a nuisance or overabundant. In Victoria in the ten-year period 2009-2018 inclusive a total of 32,147 of these ATCW permits (not commercial) were issued for Australian species covering 1,513,605 animals across 82 native species including for 26,507 Wombats, in addition Wombats are unprotected in much of the state and killing them does not require a permit. This Government describes Koalas as overabundant (nonsense).

While not formally announced, the Victorian Government (its Ministers) have also flagged their intention to proceed with this year’s Duck shooting season despite the devastating impact on waterbird populations in Australia from heat events, long term and severe drought and now the horrific fires. South Australia has already announced that despite the devastating fires it will proceed with its Duck shooting season.

Too little too late

An area not that much smaller than Greece, has been destroyed in Australia over the last few weeks and because the firegrounds are so vast, the wildlife that does survive is in immediate danger of starvation and dehydration, all food has gone, and water sources, if they remain, are contaminated. The Australian Veterinary Association is desperately calling on the Victorian Government to airdrop food into inaccessible, bushfire-affected land in Victoria to save starving wildlife.

“Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government was taking expert advice to get the best outcome for native wildlife and biodiversity. “We’re considering supplementary feeding for threatened species in targeted areas if and when it’s appropriate and safe to do so,” she said.

As President of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council I have called on the government to stop all wildlife killing activities and to begin food drops with immediate effect. Towards the end of 2019 it looked to me, with all the disasters and potential disasters that we describe here, that the Victorian Government were ‘culling’ wildlife in state and national parks in Victoria. The response I received beyond the usual spin was as follows:

“If you require any more detailed information at this stage, we encourage you to submit your query through our Freedom of Information Process”.

Something to hide perhaps?

Australia’s ABC report that “Animals Australia director Lyn White said some species in fire-affected areas were critically endangered such as the mountain pygmy-possum and brush-tailed rock-wallaby found in Gippsland. The charity offered $100,000 to the Victorian Government last week to help purchase food, but said they have not received a response to the offer”.

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