When a fierce bushfire razes a landscape, it's not only larger and iconic species like kangaroos and koalas that suffer. A host of lesser-known birds and reptiles - snakes and lizards among them - are also made homeless overnight and survivors soon become malnourished. In Western Australia, wildlife rescue organisations like Native Animal Rescue have joined forces to help fire victims large and small, cute and not so cuddly - and WWF-Australia has their back.
At Two Rocks, a small coastal town 60 kilometres north of Perth where some 13,000 hectares of native bush was destroyed, the emergency response has been nothing short of inspiring. Native Animal Rescue CEO Kelli Ellemor and her team return day after day to rescue orphaned and injured animals and to provide fresh food and water for survivors.
"The landscape here is really, really barren; there's absolutely nothing left. The fires haven't been as ferocious as they were in the eastern states but unfortunately, we're having our fair share of fires as well. We have wildlife in need at Two Rocks and in the Stirling Ranges. The whole of Australia’s in trouble and our support for fire-impacted animals is not going to be a short-term thing.
We’ll be coming out here every day for the next 18 months to fill and check our feed stations. Each has a GPS location, and we want to number them as well, so we know exactly what food has been eaten at what station.
The Wildlife Care WA carers we're working with are amazing. They've got a lot of joeys that have suffered trauma and burnt feet who are doing it really tough. These carers are the people getting up in the middle of the night to look after those little ones, doing the vet trips and all the bandage changes.
We have reptiles in our care at the moment. It's important to understand that other wildlife is equally vital to the environment - our snakes, bobtails (a species of blue-tongued lizard) and birds. We have a gorgeous little possum in care that has had an extremely hard start to life after her mother succumbed to her injuries after the fire. We have had birds admitted to the centre from that were very thin and have been nursed back to health and released into an appropriate habitat that will sustain their needs. We are also rehabilitating two endangered black cockatoos from the area, who are making a great recovery and will be released in time. We're not seeing many birds in this area when we are out in the black zone. Many of these species are going to have to find new territory to forage in or they'll starve to death.
We're still forecast to experience temperatures of 40 degrees in the west. The water we put out helps animals to keep cool and stay hydrated. This is something that people can do to help look after our wildlife for the next 12 months - put out a shallow container that little birds won't drown in so that they and other animals can have a good drink. Consider planting a native tree in your backyard and putting in a birdbath.
A big thank you to everyone who has donated to the WWF Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund. Its support will enable us to do so many things that we weren't able to do before, including to get a fire trailer and to continue supplying these animals with food for the next 12 months. We also plan to put a few little cameras out to check on injured wildlife. And we couldn't have done that otherwise. Every cent counts."
WWF-Australia Species Consultant in WA, Ashleigh Chauvin, believes Native Animal Rescue is making a long-term contribution to conservation in the state.
"This bushland will regenerate eventually, but it will be months before there’s enough food to support all the wildlife living here. Some of the bush is particularly important feeding habitat for our endangered black cockatoos and over the coming weeks it's thought that more of these endangered birds will be taken into care due to lack of food.
Wildlife that has survived within the fire area will be facing long-term challenges. By supporting organisations like Native Animal Rescue through our Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund, WWF is committing to wildlife conservation on a larger scale.
The major challenge for Australian landscapes and wildlife is climate change. It will bring with it higher temperatures, drier conditions and more fires like we've already seen in this catastrophic fire season. WWF's Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund will help support the emergency response for wildlife, habitat recovery and the longer-term future-proofing of Australia. And it's our generous supporters who have made it all possible. So thank you."
Meet the animals in care
Native Animal Rescue currently have in care a number of animals including: