Thank You Thursday: The world of difference for wildlife

Looking back towards the end of last year, and the beginning of this year we still cannot forget those devastating fires that swept through parts of Australia. Last month we featured a story about one organisation working in the Gippsland region of Victoria, but because this has had such a huge impact on so many Australians we wanted to share another story of hope.

One of the more tragic of the fires was the blaze that burnt 210,000 hectares – or almost half of Kangaroo Island, and also sadly killed two people. Of 60,000 koalas all in good health living on the island, it is estimated that 30,000 perished. This remaining group of koalas are important to the endurance of the species as the Chlamydia disease is not present amongst them, unlike all populations on the mainland. Grave fears are held for the survival of some of the island’s vulnerable species such as the Dunnart, Black Glossy Cockatoo and the Ligurian Honey Bees.

After the fire had passed through, animal welfare groups were given permission to enter the blackened area. Those volunteers were absolutely taken aback at the traumatised wildlife that sat around in groups together. The survivors had no energy and seemed to have shut down. That was when South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) stepped in to help.

SAVEM, an organisation of 100% volunteers from all walks of life, has an undertaking to assess, triage, shelter, treat and re-unite owners with their animals; while also trying to rehabilitate wildlife to be returned to their natural habitats. Veterinarians and veterinary nurses volunteer their specialised skills to help heal these sick animals back to health.

The SAVEM Plan has allowed vets to respond to any emergency in South Australia involving companion animals, wildlife and livestock. Even though Primary Industries and Regions SA has the lead response for livestock including horses, SAVEM is a multispecies organisation that will assist if requested for large animal incidents.

The origins of this organisation date back to February 2009 in Victoria’s Black Saturday fire. South Australia’s support to Victoria at that time, and the absence of a Plan for veterinary emergency management in SA, SAVEM was formed to make sure that when the next emergency occurred, the veterinary community in South Australia would be prepared.

An important part of the work of SAVEM extends past the initial crisis when fires are burning. Even into early February, the team have checked several sites that have required a revisit, and found wallabies, kangaroos, koalas and birds in need of assistance.

Their work now is about helping in the transition to recovery, where processes are handed back to locals. The organisation will maintain a presence on the Island until they are no longer actively needed and are committed to assisting the Island during the tough recovery years ahead.

This Thank You Thursday we say thanks to the volunteers of SAVEM for their dedication to supporting Kangaroo Island communities and animals affected by the bushfires.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.