How to help Australian wildlife decimated by bushfires

Bushfires have killed an estimated half a billion native animals this summer and many people around the world are wondering how they can help.

The plight of our koalas has dominated the headlines, but there are many other native animals that require urgent assistance. 

This guide draws upon my experience as a registered wildlife carer - it is a mix of practical ideas and suggestions of how to donate money and connect with those helping animals on the ground.

What you can do to help wildlife after a bushfire

Leave out bowls of water for animals escaping fires or drought. Place some sticks and stones in the dish to help smaller animals climb out if they fall in.

Kangaroos drinking at Wild2Free after fire (left) and feed left out by Lisa Diggins. Source: Supplied

While people are normally discouraged from feeding wildlife, drought and bushfire has deprived many birds and animals of food.

Feed for birds and animals should be left in an area where wildlife is safe from predators. Bird and bat feeders can be attached to trees and hay and macropod pellets should not be left on hot, charred ground. 

If you have cats or dogs keep them inside so they do not attack fleeing wildlife.

If you find fire or drought-affected native animals

Animals that have suffered injury or illness need attention from a registered carer and unskilled individual should call their local wildlife rescue organisation or vet for help.

If it is safe to do so, contain the animal and keep it warm, dark and quiet in a well ventilated container until you can get help. 

Flying foxes should only be handled by registered carers. Source: Michael Dahlstrom / Yahoo news Australia

Injured or sick flying foxes, snakes, large lizards, raptors and macropods should only be approached by registered carers as they can be dangerous. 

Please do not attempt to feed the animal once you have it contained.

It is important to put your own safety first – never enter burnt out forests or dangerous areas without permission from your local fire authority.

Junior wildlife carer Eliza Hungerford and a baby wombat she is treating for NATF Hunter Wildlife Rescue. Source: Michael Dahlstrom / Yahoo news Australia

Avoiding wildlife on the road

Please drive slowly in fire affected areas. Wildlife fleeing fires and looking for food are being hit by cars as they cross the road. Motorists should be aware that native animals will be stressed and disorientated as they leave their habitat fleeing fire. 

You should never swerve to avoid wildlife, but instead bring your car to a slow, steady stop.

If you see a marsupial dead on the road, please check its pouch for young. You should never pull a baby animal from the teat, instead try and take the deceased parent to a vet or wildlife carer.

A koala undergoing treatment at Koala Hospital Port Macquarie. Source: Michael Dahlstrom / Yahoo News Australia

The largest wildlife rescue groups in each fire-affected state

Most wildlife carers across Australia are at capacity as they struggle with ever-increasing numbers of sick and injured animals. 

Please only contact these organisations by phone if you find sick or injured wildlife. 

Donations to these organisations are tax-deductible and people wishing to help should do so via their websites. 

Victoria

Wildlife Victoria 

https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/

Phone: 03 8400 has 7300

NSW

WIRES Wildlife Rescue

https://www.wires.org.au/

Phone: 1300 094 737

South Australia

Fauna Rescue of SA

https://www.faunarescue.org.au/

Phone: (08) 8289 0896

Western Australia

FAWNA

https://www.fawna.com.au/

Phone: (08) 9474 9055

ACT

ACT Wildlife

http://actwildlife.net/

Phone: 0432 300 033

Access Canberra (for injured kangaroos, sick adult wombats and snakes)

https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/
Phone: 13 22 81

Queensland 

Wildlife Rescue Queensland 

https://wrq.org.au/

Phone: 0478 901 801

Tasmania

Bonorong Wildlife Rescue

https://www.bonorong.com.au/wildlife-rescue-service

Phone: 0447 264 625

On the ground wildlife support

Much of the work being done to feed starving wildlife in bushfire and drought-affected regions is being done by individuals who volunteer their time to help animals. There are a number of GoFundMe fundraisers set up to support them. 

A burnt out wildlife sanctuary near Cobargo. Source: Gary and Sara

This is a list of individuals and groups I have spoken to while reporting on wildlife issues for Yahoo News Australia. Stories about them can be located via the hyperlinks.

Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary 

Wild2Free is a kangaroo sanctuary run by Rae Harvey. Her home and sanctuary have been destroyed by bushfires. 

https://www.facebook.com/wild2free/

Koala Hospital Port Macquarie

Koala Hospital Port Macquarie is working around the clock to save dying koalas and roll out water stations to koalas. 

https://www.koalahospital.org.au/

Wildlife Empire

Wildlife Empire in Goondiwindi is working to help drought affected koalas.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Wildlife-Empire-2032997433614974/posts/

Two surviving wallabies drink after fire destroyed Wild2Free. Source: Wild2Free

Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast

Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast has been raising money to help drought-affected wildlife and distributing it among smaller groups.

https://www.facebook.com/WildlifeRescueSunshineCoast/

Wildlife ARC

Wildlife ARC is a donation-dependent wildlife charity on the NSW Central Coast that I volunteer for.

http://wildlife-arc.org.au/

Help Cobargo Wildlife

This fundraiser has been set up to help wildlife rescuers in the Cobargo region.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/wildlife-fire-ground-carers

1300 KOALAZ

Adelaide and Hills Koalas Rescue is working to save koalas injured by motor accident and drought.

https://www.1300koalaz.com/

Hunter Wildlife Rescue

NATF Hunter Wildlife Rescue helps animals across the Hunter Valley, particularly drought affected flying foxes.

https://www.hunterwildlife.org.au/

The Rescue Collective

The Rescue Collective are distributing funds to other animal welfare groups around Australia.

https://therescuecollective.com/

Animal Rescue Collective

Animal Rescue Collective are distributing supplies to those on the ground helping wildlife.

https://www.facebook.com/animalrescuecollective/

World Animal Protection

World Animal protection are a global organisation fundraising for disaster response.

https://donate.worldanimalprotection.org.au/campaigns/australian-bushfires/?id=X2020S00f#.Xhaq3xczZ24

Volunteering to be a rescuer

Wildlife groups are always in search of new members.

If you would like to train to work with wildlife, look at the contact page of your local rescue group and offer your assistance.

Be patient though - these groups are largely run by volunteers who invest their own money and time to help native animals and birds.

The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered native bird carer with Wildlife ARC.

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