Survivors emerging from ruins of forest

Survivors emerging from ruins of forest

15 January 2007

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Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia — A triage centre has been set up in Purnim to help save animals injured in the now-contained Framlingham Forest fire.

As predicted by wildlife experts, animals that can be helped are starting to appear.

DSE officers found only koalas, kangaroos and wallabies too burnt to be saved during the first few days following the fire.

However, Wildlife Victoria vice-president Manfred Zabinskas said the weekend had yielded some better results.

“We’ve found about 27 koalas and more than half have survived, which is pretty good for a fire,” Mr Zabinskassaid.

“The ones we’ve taken into care have a really good chance.”

Animals with a good chance of survival were being picked up in the forest yesterday by DSE officers and Koala Foundation experts.

A tree-climber with the Koala Foundation was speeding up the process by bringing the koalas to the ground, but a cherry picker was also brought in late yesterday to assist even further.

Animals were then taken to a wildlife triage centre set up at the Purnim Hall where they could be bandaged, placed on IV drips and stabilised for the trip to one of the nearby shelters.

Mr Zabinskas said more than 30 people were involved in the process, with local residents also being a great help by offering trees for koalas or helping locate injured animals.

Aside from koalas, the temporary veterinarian clinic at Purnim Hall also has a large echidna.

“He dug into the ground when the fire came through and it’s melted the tops of his spikes off,” Mr Zabinskas said.

“He was obviously exposed to horrific temperatures for his quills to have melted, but he’s eating and moving around, so we’ve got our fingers crossed for him.”

Wildlife shelter operator Lorraine O’Brien said the south-west’s three main shelters were running out of room for the survivors.

She said some local people with enclosures had been able to help out with the lightly burnt koalas, but more seriously injured animals needed proper shelter care.

While the survival rate of the animals being found is improving, there is still a large number of wildlife that can’t be saved.

Ms O’Brien estimated about 17 koalas were put down during the weekend, as well as some wallabies and kangaroos.

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