When nine-year-old Peyton Greathead and her dad saw an echidna making a victorious appearance out of bushland decimated by fire, it was a joyful and miraculous sight.
But this quickly turned to devastation when a car driving around a corner just ahead of them in Buxton, in NSW’S Macarthur region, collected it with its low-hanging bumper – dragging it across the coarse bitumen.
In a panic, the daughter-and-dad duo pulled over and ran to the injured animal’s aid, deciding in an instant they would deliver it immediately to the nearest vet hospital.
On the journey there, Peyton nursed the echidna on her lap and affectionately named him “little bud”.
“When he was on his back curled into a little ball throughout the drive, he slowly grew to us. He wasn’t so worried and stressed – he knew we weren’t going to hurt him,” Peyton’s dad Tyson told Yahoo News Australia.
“So his little face would come out and he had glossy little dark eyes looking up at us, it was just so cute.”
They arrived at Picton Veterinary Hospital about 7pm (local time) on Wednesday, but sadly the echidna’s prognosis was not what they had hoped.
“It wasn’t until the vet asked us to come and place him on the table and he turned over onto his side that a lot of blood came pouring out,” Mr Greathead said.
“It had been mostly gravity that was holding the blood in. There was a lot of blood the poor thing. If he had of just walked into the bush, he would have had a pretty long night on his hands, the poor thing.”
He said the vet then informed the pair the echidna’s injuries were consistent with those commonly caused by road accidents, and the animal would need to be put to sleep.
Mr Greathead and his family fortunately have not been affected by bushfires in the area, but were patrolling the burnt land this week and assessing the expansive damage.
“It was pretty sad that you just saw burnt bush on both sides as far as the eye could see and to know that that echidna managed to survive all of that devastation, just to cross a road no more than seven metres-wide and then be hit by a human. It was just really sad,” he said.
“If it wasn’t for that, he would have been alright.”
Living on a property and having helped rescue wildlife several times previously, Mr Greathead said the ordeal had affected Peyton deeply.
“It devastated Peyton a lot, she was bawling her eyes out for at least a good hour afterwards, just wishing that there was more that she could do.
“She loves animals and has just got the biggest heart in the world, and she loves our Aussie natives especially. To think she was so close to helping one just to have it taken from her grip was a bit sad.”
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