'Nothing would survive': WA bushfires catastrophic for wildlife

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer
·4-min read

Fast moving bushfires that have engulfed parts of Western Australia have left wildlife volunteers fearful few animals have survived.

The fires, which by Thursday afternoon were known to have destroyed at least 81 properties and two firefighting vehicles have also likely wiped out much of the wildlife living in the areas, carers believe.

With much of the fire zone close to Perth still too dangerous to enter, rescuers believe many surviving animals will likely perish before they can receive attention.

Left - Smoke over the road near Middle Swan. Right - A DFES worker holding a joey in a blue blanket.
A lone kangaroo joey was rescued by a firefighter named Stefan, but most other wildlife is expected to have perished in the fires. Source: Supplied

This sad outcome would be consistent with many areas impacted by the Black Summer bushfires last year, which are believed to have harmed or killed in excess of three billion native animals.

‘Ridiculously ferocious’: Nothing would survive

President of Western Australia wildlife rescue group FAWNA, Suzanne Strapp, told Yahoo News Australia that with buildings vaporised in the fire’s path she holds little hope for much of the wildlife.

The fires, which have burnt more than 9000 hectares, were aided by high winds and have likely killed countless kangaroos, wallabies, birds, bandicoots, phascogales, brush tail possums and quolls which all inhabit the area.

“It might be a mop up afterwards in terms of helping the animals which have escaped into pockets where the fire didn’t burn,” Ms Strapp said.

“Then we need to make sure there’s enough food and water until things recover.

“The winds have died down overnight but they were just ridiculously ferocious and just nothing would survive that.”

A firefighter standing next to a house. Fire burns in the background.
More than 9000 hectares are believed to have burned in the Perth fires. Source: AAP / DFES

Should anything survive the blaze, the Australian Veterinary Association is on standby, close to fire control, with up to nine vets on call.

Once the animals are treated, they will be taken to a wildlife clinic in Perth for observation.

‘No fight in her’: Tiny kangaroo rescued by firefighters

The one native animal known to have been pulled alive from the fire zone came into care after Department of Fire and Emergency Services workers rescued him yesterday in Ellenbrook.

The young 3.5kg kangaroo rested underneath a vehicle while firefighters waited for help to arrive.

Rachel Kimber from Perth Wildlife Rescue Network, who attended the scene, told Yahoo News Australia that from the moment she saw the roo she knew her chances of survival were slim.

The tiny animal put up little fight as she reached under truck to grab her, a sign that she was severely injured.

Despite her misgivings about its survival, Ms Kimber was determined not to dash the hardworking firefighters’ hopes, and tried to remain positive.

A phascogale sitting on a rock
Phascogales are one of the animals known to inhabit the fire zone. Source: Getty

“With this little one, straight up I was like she’s not looking good, but I said I’ll take her home and give her a go.

“But there was no fight in her whatsoever.”

Once in care, the extent of the roo’s burns became clear.

While the young animal’s fur was a little scorched, she had probably avoided much of the blaze itself.

It was when she then likely tried to return home that her feet were scorched by the hot ash, resulting in both pain and severe stress.

The smoke from the bushfires seen through a car windscreen.
Rachel Kimber is on alert, waiting to receive wildlife that may have miraculously survived. Source: Supplied

“By the time I’d actually drawn up to give her some pain meds and sedate her a little bit, she’d passed away,” Ms Kimber said.

“You know when it’s the first one, you just want the first one to make it.

“Then I regretted having that two percent of hope, because the reality of it is, is that not many do survive.”

How to help wildlife affected by bushfires

While the bushfires have likely killed all wildlife in their path, Ms Kimber holds out hope that some animals may have survived in pockets where the flames did not reach.

Those animals, she said, will need assistance reaching food and water due to the extent of habitat loss.

Much of the fire zone remains too dangerous to enter and wildlife carers are waiting for clearance from emergency services before searching for animals.

She is encouraging anyone travelling in the area to carry a pillow case, so that when it is safe to do so, surviving animals can be caught and placed inside the soft fabric until help arrives.

During the bushfires, Perth’s animal assistance line WildCare Helpline is running 24 hours and they can be contacted on (08) 9474 9055.

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