A young koala named Maryanne is the small mercy linked to one of the most poignant photographs of Australia’s bushfire crisis.
The image of a charred koala, which couldn’t escape flames at Wivenhoe Pocket, went viral when it was posted by koala carer and volunteer firefighter Peter Luker.
But Maryanne was luckier than the koala in the viral photograph.
She somehow survived that same fire and is now in the care of Peter and his partner Trudi Timbs after receiving emergency treatment at RSPCA Queensland’s wildlife hospital.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia has so far committed more than $1.1 million for immediate wildlife rescue, care and recovery with RSPCA Queensland one of the first recipients because of an influx of animals like Maryanne.
The pads on her paws were severely burned when she either walked on coals or climbed a hot tree and she has lost one claw.
“It’s like having the palms of your hands burnt off, she would have been in incredible pain. Patients like Maryanne have to go to the RSPCA first because they need some fairly critical care, and once they stabilise them they are sent out to carers like us,” said Peter Luker.
Maryanne’s burns are nearly healed but she’ll be kept with Peter and Trudi until she gains some weight.
As the bushfires raged, RSPCA Queensland’s wildlife hospital was receiving about 150 koalas a month, nearly three times the normal number – koalas like Jasmine who is recovering after flames badly singed her ears and nose.
The intake of all wildlife species was about 80 animals a day and that has continued through January.
“That has put a huge strain on the organisation and particularly the people who are working in the wildlife hospital,” said RSPCA Queensland CEO Darren Maier.
“The support from WWF has come at a crucial time. We’re grateful for the funds from WWF and all our generous supporters who allow us to do the work we do,” Mr Maier said.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said WWF was providing an immediate response to the bushfire crisis and developing long-term plans to restore what has been lost.
“The devastation is unprecedented and the recovery work ahead is immense. That’s why we’re partnering with wildlife rescue and care organisations in fire-affected states and directing funds so they can respond to the many animals in need of urgent veterinary care, food and forest homes,” said Mr O’Gorman.
In addition to RSPCA Queensland, WWF-Australia has provided funds to Wildcare to help with the delivery of food drops and veterinary supplies for injured and orphaned wildlife affected by fires in Tallaganda National Park in NSW.
WWF funds have also been deployed to Zoos Victoria’s Australian Wildlife Health Centre to support veterinary staff working at triage sites within fire-affected areas and Native Animal Rescue to feed and care for kangaroos, possums, reptiles and black cockatoos impacted by fires in Western Australia.
With fires burning across Kangaroo Island in South Australia, WWF has also provided funds to Nature Foundation SA to support recovery actions for endangered glossy black cockatoos and Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to help protect the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.
“Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and partners we’ve been able to distribute immediate funds where they are needed most. It is truly incredible to see people from Australia and around the world banding together to protect our wildlife and wild places,” said Mr O’Gorman.
People can help WWF continue to deploy emergency funds to care for injured wildlife and – when the fires clear – help restore the forest homes that koalas and other animals have lost by donating at https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency