After a devastating few months in Queensland and an early start to the fire season, heatwaves are now affecting southern states. Large parts of eastern Victoria, New South Wales as well as Kangaroo Island in South Australia have been devastated by bushfires over the last week. It has been a horrific start to the year for many communities around Australia as well as countless wildlife and farmed animals that have been caught up in the bushfire crisis across several states.
Increasing risk of bushfires due to climate change has been predicted for well over a decade. Each bushfire season we see an increasing number of extreme fire danger days. Yet the government has failed to take adequate action. You can read more about the impact of climate change on bushfires at The Climate Council’s website, and what the government could be doing to better prepare us here.
While recognising the enormous cost these fires have placed on people in the affected regions, this article will concentrate on the animals including wildlife and farmed animals. You can find out more about how to help people and donations to fire services as well as organisations providing support to communities here and here.
The current situation
Bushfires have now burnt through an estimated 6.3 million hectares in Australia this fire season and are still burning with several emergency warnings still in place in some areas. Some fires may be burning for weeks to come, and no doubt more fires can be expected for the remainder of the fire season. For those areas that have already been burnt through, access is still difficult with many roads closed and extreme smoke cover reducing visibility from the air. These factors are making it difficult to access some areas and to assess the full extent of the damage.
For the latest information and emergency warnings refer to authorities in each state: NSW RFS, Vic Emergency, SA CFS.
Thousands of farmed animals including cows and sheep have been killed, and over a billion wild animals. We don’t yet have an accurate picture of the total number of farmed animals killed and may not for some time.
The Australian Veterinary Association vets alongside Department of Agriculture officers are on the ground in many areas to assess and euthanise animals as necessary in Victoria.
The Australian government the Australian Defence Force is on the ground assisting with burial of deceased farmed animal victims. Without proper burial these bodies pose a major biosecurity risk.
How to help
Right now, donations are needed to support wildlife rescue and care. The scale of the current crisis is enormous and resources will be required for some time into the future caring for wildlife and hopefully assisting populations to recover in some areas.
Donations can be made to the following organisations:
Animals Australia are channeling funding where it is needed most and supporting vets to get in and provide support on the ground. Read more about their response here.
Wildlife rescue organisations that work with wildlife carers in each state:
Support sanctuaries and wildlife carers in need. Voiceless: the animal protection institute has compiled a list here.
Cash donations are generally best to ensure necessary supplies can be purchased in the most efficient way. There have been reports of unnecessary donated goods causing additional issues for teams involved in supporting bushfire affected areas. Unless organisations are asking for specific goods to be donated, please donate cash. Please also remember that rescue organisations and shelters are pushed to full capacity at the moment so please keep their phone lines free unless there are wildlife in urgent need.
Our thoughts are with all those assisting in affected communities including all the wonderful wildlife carers around the country and those providing support through fundraising and donations.
Sadly, this recent bushfire crisis is not the first and it certainly won’t be the last. We hope this crisis will also provide the necessary push to reduce the impact of future disasters like this.
Please also keep your eye out for wildlife in need over the coming months. We recommend keeping a towel, box, and list of emergency vets or wildlife hospitals on hand in your car. You can also help by keeping a bowl of clean fresh water out for wildlife on hot days. Read more on helping animals during heatwaves here.
We will continue to push for stronger action on climate change and advocate for a move away from animal agriculture. We also need the government provide better resources and plans for dealing with disasters (including reducing the impact on wildlife and farmed animals). We will be campaigning on these important issues throughout the year. But right now, those affected and those rescuing and caring for animals need our support.