Makeshift koala hospital scrambles to save dozens injured in bushfires





Kangaroo Island (Australia) (AFP) - Dozens of injured koalas arrive at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park's makeshift animal hospital each day in cat carriers, washing baskets or clinging to wildlife carers.

Injured in bushfires that have ravaged the wildlife haven off the coast of South Australia state, there are so many marsupials currently requiring urgent treatment that carers don't have time to give them names -- they are simply referred to by a number.

Among them is Koala Number 64, who was brought in with burns to all four of his paws.

Stretched out on a surgical table in a bustling tent, he has been sedated so the wounds can be examined and treated.

"It's healing nicely," says veterinarian Peter Hutchison, explaining the koala had already benefitted from a few days' of treatment.

Not all rescued koalas have been so lucky. Many are found so badly injured that they need to be euthanised.

Steven Selwood, South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management team leader at the hospital, says around 46,000 koalas were thought to be on the island before this year's bushfires.

It is estimated as few as 9,000 remain, Selwood says, describing the figure as "pretty devastating".

"The fires here were particularly ferocious and fast-moving so we're seeing a lot less injured wildlife than in other fires," he tells AFP.

"A lot of the wildlife was incinerated."

Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the country's koala population had taken an "extraordinary hit" as a result of bushfires that have raged for months, suggesting they could be listed as "endangered" for the first time.

Kangaroo Island is the only place in Australia where the population is entirely free of chlamydia -- a sexually transmitted infection also found in humans that is fatal to koalas.

That has made them a key "insurance population" for the future of the species -- and even more crucial now that large numbers have died in bushfires on the Australian mainland.

Almost half of Kangaroo Island has been razed by fire and an estimated 80 percent of koala habitat wiped out.

This widespread destruction has left rescuers with a tricky proposition -- what to do with the animals once they have recovered.

For now, that issue is on the back burner as teams of vets work overtime to save as many as possible.

"He's going to need another week (to recover) and will need to be kept caged after that," Hutchinson tells AFP as he wraps a pink bandage around Number 64's paw.

"Because there's no habitat for him to go back to at this time."

COMMENTS

More Related News

Why These Australia Fires Are Like Nothing We
Why These Australia Fires Are Like Nothing We've Seen Before

SYDNEY -- In late October, lightning struck brittle earth on Gospers Mountain in New South Wales. The remains of trees bone dry from consecutive winters with little to no rain were ignited, and the fire quickly spread.Three months later, it is still burning.The Gospers Mountain fire, which became Australia's largest "megablaze" as it grew to link several separate fires, offers a sense of the scale of the country's most disastrous fire season ever. The blaze has burned 2 million acres, enveloping hinterland and wine country, and prompted a special mission to save prehistoric trees so rare their exact location is kept secret.That fire is now largely contained. But dozens of others...

In forest monastery, Buddhist abbot faces bushfire with a smile
In forest monastery, Buddhist abbot faces bushfire with a smile

Buddhist monk Phra Mana helped build his bush monastery with his bare hands three decades ago, but when Australia's worst wildfires in generations threatened to destroy it he stood up to fate with a smile. At the monastery, which around 50 to 60 volunteer firefighters were dispatched to defend, only a few buildings and water tanks were lost. True to his religion, Phra Mana has been able to accept the damage with equanimity.

Scientists say Australia
Scientists say Australia's rare duck-billed platypuses are being pushed to 'the brink of extinction' - and deadly bushfires are making it worse

A new report says population numbers of the animal have more than halved since Europeans first arrived in Australia.

Just as Australia
Just as Australia's deadly fires begin to subside, it's being hit with more apocalyptic weather. Videos show enormous dust storms and golf-ball-sized hail battering cars and buildings

Rainfall helped to relieve some parts of the country affected by the bushfires, but caused damage in other ways

Hail, floods, dust hit Australia amid raging wildfires
Hail, floods, dust hit Australia amid raging wildfires

Dust storms, hail and flash floods have battered beleaguered Australian cities in recent days, extreme weather that has diminished the threat from scores of wildfires that continue to blaze across the country's southeast. A hail storm in the national capital Canberra on Monday damaged public buildings, businesses, homes and cars, cut power to some suburbs, brought down trees, caused flash flooding and injured two people, emergency services officials said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America