Fears wildlife that has survived the bushfires on Kangaroo Island will succumb to starvation is driving the urgent recruitment of up to 120 volunteers by RSPCA South Australia.
Describing the situation on the island as a looming "second wave of mass wildlife deaths", RSPCA South Australia CEO Paul Stevenson on Friday, January 24 announced the next phase of the organisation's bushfire response plan which will see feed distributed to identified wildlife survival pockets.
"This is a dynamic situation and this plan for targeted, ground-based feed distribution will evolve as more areas are accessed, but there is an immediate need to get food and water to as many of these animals as possible," Mr Stevenson said.
"We don't know how many animals are fending for themselves in totally barren landscapes, but wildlife rescuers are starting to find animals in extremely poor condition due to lack of food and water.
"With so many areas still not accessed - in particular the now devastated Flinders Chase National Park - our fear is these animals being found are the tip of the iceberg.
"And it's not just koalas - several endangered species have also suffered habitat loss."
Three teams of volunteers comprising three members each, a total of nine volunteers, will be on the island enacting this plan at any one time, working to seven-day rotating rosters under the leadership of a dedicated Field Operations Manager.
These teams will undertake feed and water distribution, and will assist if needed with collecting fresh feed for koalas in care as they recover from injuries.
Many groups and individuals have to date been doing all they can to get feed to wildlife on the island, but after several weeks they are tiring and need back up.
This bushfire response is anticipated to continue for at least three months - until there has been sufficient vegetation regrowth.
While teams of volunteers are being organised, additional RSPCA South Australia staff are heading to the island early next week tasked with distributing food supplies to as many native animals as they can locate.
Kangaroo Island residents are encouraged to contact RSPCA South Australia with information about any locations where surviving wildlife is in need of food and water supplies.
"We are very much reliant on local knowledge to help us find these animals," Mr Stevenson said.
"And we certainly encourage Kangaroo Islanders to contact us if they wish to be part of this bushfire response."
Islanders have been rallying to feed wildlife around the Island, including RoAnna Horbelt and her partner at Stokes Bay, who have set up feeding stations on their unburned patch of ground.
KI resident Max Radnell has devised a handy feeding station device out of PVC piping that are being rolled out across the Island.
There are reports of large mobs of kangaroos, wallabies and other wildlife congregating at feed stations.
Helping out delivering donated animal feed to wildlife rescuers is Michelle Barrett from KI Kennels and Fodder, which has become a central point for delivering feed for both domestic and and wild animals.
Fellow Islander Mark Russell has also managed to get bales of hay to his burned out block on the western end of Kangaroo Island.
"We got another hay bale out to our block today and take some to our dam where the original small bale we put there was totally gone," Mr Russell said.
Work is also happening with local wildlife groups on the critically endangered glossy black-cockatoos and KI dunnarts.
In Victoria, army helicopters with heat-sensing equipment have been used to identify pockets where wildlife has survived, and Mr Stevenson said similar aerial scoping over Kangaroo Island could be beneficial if it occurred within the next day or two.
Apart from distributing food directly to wildlife, RSPCA South Australia is establishing 1-2 depots where locals will be able to collect food to support wildlife on their properties. Volunteers will replenish food supplies at specific locations and assist with the rescue and transport of animals in need of veterinary care.
An RSPCA South Australia veterinarian and veterinary nurse continue to assist with the care of injured wildlife at the main triage centre in at the Kangaroo Island Widlife Park at Parndana.
Anyone wishing to volunteer will need to meet strict criteria, including:
- Being physically fit and strong
- Able to cope with the distressing reality of severely burnt animals
- Able to work a minimum of a 1x7-day roster, based on the island, in Feb, March and/or April
All transport, food and accommodation costs will be covered.
To register your interest in volunteering and for information on other ways you can help: www.rspcasa.org.au/ki-bushfires-plan
This ongoing emergency response is being funded by donations made to RSPCA South Australia's Bushfire Appeal: my.rspcasa.org.au/bushfires/Donate