Tag Archives: Covid-19

Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter Rehabilitate Sick & Injured Native Animals

Kangaloola-joey-feeding

It’s Been A Tough Gig In 2020

The last 12 months seem to have been one disaster after another. Australia’s wildlife, and the people that care for them, are feeling the hurt.

For over 25 years now not-for-profit organisation Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter — located in the midst of the beautiful Stanley Forest just outside Yackandandah, 300 kilometres north-east of Melbourne — has provided care and comfort, and saved the lives of, literally thousands of native animals.

ABOVE: Photo by Paul McCormack. All images via Kangaloola Facebook.

Founded by Glenda Elliott (fondly known to many as “the Angel of the Bush”), Kangaloola has grown from humble, ad hoc beginnings into a vibrant hub where a largely volunteer team cares for injured, sick and orphaned Australian wildlife with the aim of rehabilitating them for eventual release back into the wild.

And while 2020 has been tough on so many fronts for so many, Kangaloola had a shocker beginning to the year with the horrific summer bushfires which ravaged their region and — apart from leaving a devastating loss of flora and fauna in their wake — could very easily have enveloped the shelter itself.

“It’s all variations of ‘the year from hell’ that’s affected so many people in so many ways,” explains Kangaloola secretary and long-term volunteer, Chris Lehmann. “It started for Kangaloola with our location in the Stanley Forest and the Abbeyard fire south-east of us and then there was the horrid Corryong fire which was north-west of us, and either one of those could have got to Kangaloola in a week or so had the wind changed direction. Nobody was putting them out, it was all about which way the wind blew.

“We had the two owners — the husband and wife team [Glenda and Ron Elliott] — and we had a Swedish girl who’d been working as a volunteer for about a year, and I think at the time we had three backpackers who were volunteers from different parts of the world, and basically I was just sitting here watching the damned emergency app — and so were Glenda and Ron — all day every day to see what was happening with the fires and to see if we had to evacuate everybody.

“It would have meant that we had to evacuate all the people and all the little joeys, and god knows what we’d do with everything else.”

In an odd twist of fate, the stress of the fires being so close was exacerbated by the last thing you’d imagine to be a negative factor – the huge outpouring of altruistic support which ensued.

“So the encroaching fires were the initial stress, and it was compounded in a weird way by the fact that I’d open my computer every morning and there would be 300 unread emails, I’m not kidding you,” Lehmann recalls with a shake of the head. “And the phone was just ringing and ringing and ringing, it would be someone like Air Canada flight crew saying ‘We want to come over and rescue animals! What can we do? Where can we go? Who can we speak to?’ From that right up to locals wanting to donate things and everything in-between, including people bringing trailer-loads of stuff we might need — it was just relentless.

“How do you feed over 100 animals and deal with all the actual rescue calls when the phone doesn’t stop ringing with offers of help? It’s the strangest conundrum. It was all people wanting to give something or volunteer or find out how we were — the despicable irony of all these wonderful offers of help was that we had to push them away. In the end we had to find ways to stop it — or divert it to some other poor bugger — and we had to send out messages saying ‘please stop’.

“And then bizarrely the real work that needed to be doing we weren’t allowed to do — we weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the fire grounds, even when the fires were out. We weren’t allowed to take food and water to the animals — that was expressly prohibited by locked gates and threats that we would be ‘breaking the law’.

“So it was a really despicable time, honestly, and all the while people were absolutely beside themselves about the animal loss and the suffering. It was a genuinely terrible time.”

Having survived the fires and provided what assistance they could, life at Kangaloola briefly returned to a semblance of normality — and then COVID struck, cancelling the shelter’s much-needed lifeline of travelling volunteers.

“We have five beds here for live-in volunteers, and then once COVID hit the cancellations started,“ Lehmann continues. Early on we had an American girl saying, ‘Sorry, my doctor has advised me that I shouldn’t go’, and I actually doffed my hat to that guy two months later: it was almost like, ‘What did that guy know that none of us knew?’

“Then the flood of cancellations started and our booking agent was saying to us, ‘What are you going to do? What’s your plan?’ And we were, like, ‘I don’t know what our plan is! I don’t know what you do in a global pandemic!’

“Early on we’d started to tell people that we wouldn’t accept people from China or who’d been anywhere near China — we started doing our own kind of triaging of volunteers — but then the government fixed the problem when they announced no more inbound flights, so that was that.

“Then we started depending on a few long-time local diehard volunteers, the girl from Sweden extended her visa, and we’ve been getting by. There’s been good days and there’s been bad days, and now we’re slowly starting to self-manage. We’ve found a British guy who’d been working on an outback station in Queensland who’s come to us and really fitted in well and it looks like he’s going to stay until the end of the year, so that’s great, and we have a couple of other leads.

“It causes stress and it makes the workload unmanageable, but I’m not going to complain too much because we’re not financially threatened like so many people are, as well as businesses and homeowners. I don’t want to complain when there’s like 10 percent of mortgages on a watch list and 15 percent of businesses threatened to go out of business — that’s a far sadder thing.”

While Lehmann is being humble in light of the COVID devastation that’s befalling people everywhere throughout regional Victoria, Kangaloola is dependent on donations (which are 100% tax-deductible and can be made at kangaloolawildlifeshelter.org.au) and they’re far from out of the woods yet: the drought conditions that have plagued regional Victoria for years may have abated somewhat but the ramifications are far from over.

“I really fear in the future that we’re going to look up on a hill during one of these serious summers and everything is going to have died the day before.”

“The biggest influx this year was we had about 13 koalas at one point — including three abandoned joeys — but really what that was was the end state or the tail-end of three years of drought conditions,” Lehmann offers. “And during that intense summer the koalas couldn’t cope with it, they just sat on the ground and said, ‘I give up’.

“The other thing that a lot of people don’t realise is that you look at the trees and you think ‘Yeah, they’re green, they’re alright’, but they are suffering — they’re as dry as biscuits. There’s nothing in the leaves and the koalas weren’t getting any nutrition — even the trees are at a tipping point.

“I really fear in the future that we’re going to look up on a hill during one of these serious summers and everything is going to have died the day before. The trees can’t cope with this forever either, they’re not magical beings.

“So we had the most koalas we’ve ever had, including three joeys that just walked up to a farmer and climbed up his leg saying, ‘Our mum’s abandoned us, can you help us?’ But they’re all ok now, same as the kangaroo joeys. They all stay with us for at least a year on an intense feeding regimen and then another year of preparing and adjusting for release — about two years all up we have them — but it’s worth it for that moment when they’re back out into their world again. Now we’ve just got to protect that world.”

 

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Mother Nature fights back

covid-19-positive-bloodtest-shutterstock

GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE world must urgently recognise the role of human behaviour, human populations and their development practices as the world faces pandemic disease like COVID-19. That’s the conclusion of an overdue research focus on the ground-level drivers of novel diseases besetting the globe.

The latest coronavirus disease started as a result of humans eating wildlife or otherwise being infected by wildlife caged for human consumption (a cultural practice that the Chinese government has now banned). Within months of the initial event in China, the whole world has gone into lockdown and economies into meltdown thanks to pandemic spread of the virus.

Other recent zoonotic viral diseases, like SARS, that spread through some Asian countries emerged due to similar behaviours. Ebola in Africa is another example of the dangers of eating bushmeat — monkeys, apes in that case. AIDs had similar genesis. (Zoonotic refers to the ability of pathogens to jump between species. Domesticated animals can be intermediary hosts from wildlife. The novel diseases that emerge are the result of human hosts with no immunity to the viruses carried by other animals.)

Australia’s CSIRO recently published an article in its science magazine ECOS on research outlining the case against human mal-interaction with the natural environment and the disastrous health impacts.

“Scientists from the different disciplines within CSIRO, the American-based EcoHealth Alliance, and the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy are embarking on new territory where they are encouraging governments and communities world-wide to recognise and address the interactions between environmental change and infectious disease emergence.

“This research is outlined in a paper titled Sustainable development must account for pandemic riskwhich has been published in the PNAS scientific journal, “ wrote ECOS journalist Amy Edwards.

What is driving this pandemic and other wildlife-borne diseases?

Increasing habitat invasion and biodiversity destruction as well as the lucrative and criminal world wildlife trade are the major drivers of a threat to human civilisation as we know it that rivals that other nature fightback, climate disruption.

Australians are no longer strangers to either the impacts of climate change or to massive habitat and biodiversity destruction for economic gain. It has been harder to ignore the ecosystem loss of the Murray Darling in the past 12 months, or the mounting cost of 200 years of native vegetation and wildlife removal, on behalf of farming and development.

And while censuring the Chinese for eating and trading in bats and pangolins Australians might also want to face the world’s most extensive and still unpublicised land-based wildlife slaughter. It occurs right here at home with the kangaroo trade for meat, (yes, bushmeat with a documented history of hygiene issues), and for wildlife skins to make football boots and other consumer products.

70% of new infectious disease related to pressure on wildlife

The paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of America that informed the CSIRO story (linked above) notes what is very evident: reaction to a string of novel diseases has been almost totally reactive and human-society focused without looking at the larger picture. Yet 70% of new infectious diseases in recent decades and most pandemics are related to human interaction with wildlife and natural habitat.

The research points to deforestation, expansion of agricultural land, intensive animal raising, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife as driving this ongoing global train wreck.

Put simply, the world’s terrestrial ecosystems are at increasing risk and their remaining inhabitants are in ever-closer contact with humans. War and people displacement; ever-larger human populations and resultant people migrations play their role in this disease/pandemic picture. One might add, as do global market economics and vastly increased leisure travel in the past 20 years.

Intensive livestock production another disease driver

The explosion of livestock production and intensive animal raising worldwide increases the risk of zoonotic diseases being transmitted by and through domesticated animals — poultry and swine flus being examples.

The authors of the PNAS paper look to action through global organisations including those of the UN — World Health, Food and Agriculture — to throw a spotlight on the interactions between humans, the natural world and the spread of disease. The current corona virus impacts that are destroying both human health and economies are centre stage.

Will governments do better than on combating climate change?

Gazing at that stage, will the response of those in power be better than we have experienced with the wobbly response to global climate disruption and its impacts? Remember the Australian bush fires? In both cases human behaviour, development goals and economic activities have been the driving forces.

The PNAS research concludes that ecological and farming knowledge needs swift expansion and integration, global planning and cooperation need to be the overarching umbrella — including more to stop the wildlife trade — and traditional thinking about expansion and development, needs to change. Are world governments, businesses and peoples prepared to listen, learn and act? The next two years will tell.

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RELATED ARTICLES:
Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

Did the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 really come from wild
animals?

www.ifaw.org

China bans trade consumption of wild animals to counter virus
bloomberg.com

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FOOTNOTE:  SCOMO GETS IT!

Humane Society International picked up the following radio interview between the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and, wait for it, Alan Jones.

Humane Society International said it welcomes the Prime Minister’s statement to Alan Jones on 2GB on 3 April signalling Australia will be strident in calling for a crack down on wildlife trade.

Wildlife markets have spawned or exacerbated global health crises with the current COVID-19 and earlier Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the deadly bird flu.

The Prime Minister made the point that these markets are not unique to China and present a risk wherever they operate in the world.

IMAGE: Healthcare person holds up a positive Covid-19 blood test result. Shutterstock.

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Is COVID-19 more successful than the IPCC?

Wuhan-pollution-levels

COMMENT: 2020 is a vastly different year in Wuhan.

I AM BUNKERED in my study, my wife in her sewing room — being retired we are luckily not too impacted, but outside, business and leisure alike have come to a halt. Our children out of work, their children are out of school. The world seems to be closing down as the virus’ spread is brought under control. It is sadly bringing suffering, hardship and deaths. Yet with all this, some of my hopes for the future are happening today!

ABOVE: Pollutant drops in Wuhan — and does not rebound
Unlike 2019, NO2 levels in 2020 did not rise after the Chinese New Year.
Image: NASA Earth Observatory, SBS & AGL.
Background: Clay Banks, Unsplash.

Electricity demand has reduced, transport’s fossil-fuel thirst has gone, emissions have fallen, the  air is clearing, and even the water has improved.

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic is not something anyone would wish for as a solution (though some suggest it might be Mother Nature’s plan) but like the GFC it seems to have been far more successful at reducing global emissions than even all the IPCC endeavours.

wuhan-graphicsBottom graph shows annual global emissions are still growing exponentially 30 years after the IPCC brought it to the worlds attention. Graph c/o Prof. Will Stefan ANU, source: W. Knorr, 2019. [Click on image to view larger.]

It’s good that most governments are taking the science seriously on the pandemic. Perhaps it’s helpful that each country’s response directly affect their own, quickly-realised outcomes, and with luck it should all be over in a year or two. Alas climate change is not afforded any of these luxuries yet I fear it will be more deadly than COVID-19 by far.

It’s good to see that our government can respond sensibly to an urgent global crisis. We only need to make them see that the right hand graph is even more important to address, needing not just to be flattened, but to be sent a long way south!

There are some other positives too. Maybe it will help people to see how seemingly simple issues can have major disruptions for society. Maybe our politicians will learn to trust science and consider more reasonably the need to turn around exponential growth..

And for CCL — well who would have thought — our conference last week was knocked on the head by COVID but ended up bigger in attendance and way down on travel and time for us all. It’s great to see this same approach in so many organisations too. People have stopped wasting their time and money travelling when they can work from home and meet on-line. Maybe this reduced carbon lifestyle is something that can stay with us long after the virus crisis has passed.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope COVID-19 and the isolation regimes have not impacted you or your family too badly, and that things will improve soon.

— Stay safe, Tom

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