How Australia’s wildlife is recovering a year after fires
Some of the most heartbreaking images to emerge from last year's fires were of burnt and distressed koalas.
And while the road to recovery for the remaining singed survivors is a long one, it's not without thanks to a tireless network of rescuers who have worked around the clock to ensure the care and rehabilitation of our nation's threatened species.
The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are under 100,000 koalas left in Australia after more than 60,000 were likely impacted by the devastating bushfires.
In NSW, the heroic staff at Mogo and Featherdale Wildlife Parks delivered emergency care and long-term rehabilitation for animals affected by the South Coast fires.
"During that time our focus was on survival - helping and saving as much as we could and then rebuilding once it was all over," director Chad Staples said.
"We have a state-of-the-art animal hospital with large operating theatres and a team of expert animal technicians with decades of experience looking after various species of wildlife.
"Our focus is making sure that this can never happen again. This means having more infrastructure so we can be better prepared."
Koalas rescued from Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria were treated for severe burns and monitored via a tracking device collar before returning to their natural habitats.
"It was a special moment to see these koalas, who have been through so much, finally return to the wild," Zoos Victoria senior vet Dr Leanne Wicker said.
"It has been a huge undertaking and responsibility for all involved to slowly rehabilitate these koalas, and a real privilege to be able to bring them back to their homes where they can complete their recovery."
Queensland's Currumbin Wildlife Hospital received 13,794 admissions last year and koala admissions alone jumped to nearly 600 in 2019 from 27 in 2008.
"Every year the numbers go up, which brings an ongoing challenge of keeping up with medication, shelter and food to care for these animals," senior vet Dr Michael Pyne said.
"But we're fortunate to have a strong team of vets, nurses and volunteers to keep with the workload."
11-year-old Finley Kelly, who has been a young zookeeper at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for two years, is wildly enthusiastic about the rehabilitation of animals and hopes to help the team in securing a sustainable future for wildlife.
"Koalas are one of the most iconic animals. It's important to keep them alive and provide a happy and safe new home for them," he said.
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Originally published as Australian koalas after the bushfires