The theme for this year’s International Day of Forests (21 March) is ‘forests and health’. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the important role that forests play in our lives and whether our national environmental laws, which are currently under review, are doing enough to ensure that future generations...
It’s hard to believe we’re just weeks away from the first anniversary of the start of Australia’s ‘Black Summer’ bushfire season. It was a time of great trauma for those who care for nature and wildlife, and while visiting some of the wildlife rescuers and rehabilitators HSI has been supporting over the last year we’ve seen heartbreak in some regions that remain charred with next to no regeneration.
But fortunately that’s not the case everywhere. We’ve also seen signs of regrowth and hope, and a whole lot of good being done with the support of our emergency fund for wildlife carers and members of our Wildlife Land Trust network.
To date we have delivered more than $800,000 in urgent funding to over 100 projects, including the five following examples HSI has been able to help thanks to the generous support of our donors. It’s an honour to be able to help these helpers who, despite losing nearly everything in some cases, are still there for wildlife in their time of need.
Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary – Gundaroo NSW
Donna and Phil at Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary are typically looking after around 70 injured or orphaned wombats at any point in time, with years of drought increasing the demand and making looking after them an increasingly challenging task.
When we visited in February, Donna mentioned that before the drought she was having to use a brush cutter to keep the wombat pens in order every month or two. With the extreme lack of rain she hasn’t had to take it out of the shed for three years… instead needing to make lengthy trips to collect fresh grass for the wombats daily (in between feeding, enrichment, never-ending washing and countless other daily demands).
HSI has funded earthmoving and irrigation work to connect the wombat enclosures at Sleepy Burrows to a large dam, massively increasing water access and grass cover and giving Donna and Phil extra time to give specialist care to burns victims each day. The sprinkler system has also vastly increased fire preparedness at the sanctuary, helping to keep wombats and their enclosures safe.
Jarowair / Toowoomba Koala and Wildlife Rescue – Toowoomba QLD
Brendon and Judi from Wildlife Land Trust sanctuary Jarowair have been volunteer wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers since 2005 and run Toowomba Koala and Wildlife Rescue. 2019 was already the busiest year they’d had due to drought, and then devastating bushfires started nearby in November.
They sprung to action and dedicated weeks to wildlife search and rescue in the fire grounds, rescuing 18 koalas – some which were found terrified and crying in the tops of trees, singed and suffering from smoke inhalation, dehydration and starvation from not having anything to eat for a very long time.
Sadly, many didn’t survive, and those that did were in desperate need of extra housing to be cared for and recover. When hearing of the situation, we were quickly able to release the funding Brendon and Judi needed for materials to build new koala enclosures that Brendon had designed – it was the first time in more than 15 years that their significant work for wildlife wasn’t self-funded.
They are currently caring for six koalas, and looking forward to the day they can be released!
Quoll Headquarters – Tenterfield NSW
Quoll Headquarters, a 400 acre Wildlife Land Trust sanctuary, was born more than 20 years ago after Steve’s long search for land to protect the spotted-tailed quoll. In the decades since securing the land, he’s not only been managing and maintaining the habitat but doing all he can to make sure it becomes a sanctuary of significance for generations to come.
With spotted-tailed (or tiger) quolls in decline, Steve knew more positive intervention was needed to increase their protection within his sanctuary. After seeking advice and help from leading ecological experts, the consensus was to construct a ‘feral-proof’ fence around the entire property.
However, just as the fence plan was finalised, Quoll Headquarters was devastated by fires far more intense than has ever been recorded in the area, putting the local quoll population at peril. When Steve got in touch for help, we were more than happy to fund his ambitious wildlife-friendly fencing project that will help to keep his life’s work safe and see quolls flourish at Quoll Headquarters.
Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust – Peak View NSW
James at Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust had an unimaginably difficult start to the year, with two fires that converged on his connected properties (three blocks purchased for their conservation values) in early February destroying every structure including his home. The fires’ impact on the natural significant values of the sanctuary have been severe, and distressingly it was while trying to protect them that three American firefighters died when their tanker plane crashed at the site.
Despite this trauma, James’s resilience while he has thrown his efforts into saving the wildlife inhabitants of Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust has been inspirational, and we are so proud to have played a part in supporting him by funding the construction of a large wildlife rehabilitation enclosure that is currently home to recovering koalas named after the firefighters who lost their lives.
We’ve also provided materials to replace a burned 9 acre macropod enclosure where injured animals can get used to the wild before their full release at the site, needed not just to help James get his facilities back up and running, but for overwhelmed wildlife carers in the region that use his sanctuary as a release site.
Possumwood – Bungendore NSW
Steve and Rosemary at Wildlife Land Trust sanctuary Possumwood are two of the most selfless people you could meet, dedicating their lives to caring for and understanding the emotions of kangaroos. Normally specialising in ‘fence hangers’ (kangaroos that get stuck in fences, a frustratingly common occurrence), their already overwhelming work has increased significantly with the intake of burns victims from the bushfire.
We are thrilled to help Steve and Rosemary and the more than 100 kangaroos they have in care by funding a much-needed wildlife treatment, recovery and learning centre for traumatised wildlife, as well as a customised barn for extra space for their animals. It’s space they desperately needed – Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust (above) is their primary release site, and the temporary loss of this location meant that a large number of joeys were being cared for in Steve and Rosemary’s house.
We are so grateful for the generosity of our supporters that has enabled HSI to help these incredibly deserving people and many others like them who were in desperate needed of infrastructure and supplies to continue and improve the incredible work they do.
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Evan Quartermain is Head of Programs at Humane Society International and has been with the organisation since 2010. A member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, Evan is responsible for HSI’s terrestrial habitat and wildlife protection campaigns and programs, with particular focus on legislative reform, flying-foxes, dingoes, and habitat protection through Threatened Ecological Community and Natural Heritage nominations. He also has oversight of HSI’s Wildlife Land Trust and Emergency Response programs.