Native animal rescue groups are warning that wildlife in bushfire areas are facing starvation and may need food drops for the next year.
Wildcare Queanbeyan’s food drops were costing more than $6,000 a month and the organisation feared it could no longer afford this expense.
But thanks to supporters of the World Wide Fund for Nature, the feeding program is now secure and there are also funds to help rescued animals being nursed back to health.
“There are huge numbers of animals facing starvation. This is a marathon, not a sprint, we’ll be support-feeding the wildlife for probably the next 12 months,” said Wildcare Queanbeyan president Belinda Hogarth-Boyd.
In November, the North Black Range Fire in Tallaganda National Park, NSW burned thousands of hectares of forest pushing animals onto surrounding properties in search of food.
To feed starving wildlife, Wildcare Queanbeyan has been distributing hay, fruit, vegetables, pellets and additional native vegetation (for full nutrition) to 40 rural properties bordering the national park.
These homeowners are keen to help native animals. Food drops are not left within the park out of concern hay could potentially spread weeds.
Forbes Creek resident Peter Smith – who purchased his property in 1977 because of its bush setting – described the fires as a tragedy.
But he said wallabies, wombats, birds and other wildlife were eagerly consuming the food drops.
“Hopefully this will tide them over through the difficult time until we get enough rain to get some regrowth,” Mr Smith said.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman helped load hay for Wildcare Queanbeyan’s food drops and said: “It’s very important that we are on the ground supporting these carers to help wildlife immediately”.
Mr O’Gorman then visited animals being nursed by Wildcare Queanbeyan volunteers and said WWF funding would also go towards vet expenses and other supplies needed to care for rescued wildlife.
Wildcare Queanbeyan president Belinda Hogarth-Boyd said her team was busy, with echidnas and wombats suffering burns and smoke inhalation, and patients like Mr Minty, a possum with all four paws and his tail badly burned.
She said many more rescues are possible because Wildcare Queanbeyan has not yet had access to the firegrounds for safety reasons.
Mr O’Gorman said in just three weeks WWF has committed more than $1.7 million to support projects focused on immediate wildlife rescue, care and recovery efforts across all fire affected states and territories, with many more projects in the pipeline.
WWF also has a long-term plan in development to help restore what has been lost.
In early January, WWF launched a $30m Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund and has called upon both State and Federal governments to bolster bushfire response funding to benefit both people and wildlife.
“We thank our supporters here in Australia and across the globe who are making this vital work to save our wildlife possible,” Mr O’Gorman said.
People can assist WWF’s efforts by donating at https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency