Saturday, January 11, 2020

Helping Creatures Great and Small - It's not just about Koalas




Is this the face of Australia? Koalas - as emblematic as Kangaroos and Vegemite, were in trouble even before the fires, but have now been  especially hard hit
-Image courtesy of John Vossen and Pixabay


Before I go on about things which we can do to help the animals, I just want to say firstly a big thank you for the terrific response to the bushfires still raging in Australia. Secondly, I want to dispel any notion that they are attributable to (a) Arsonists  or (b) the Greens, for not allowing more controlled burns, as some Newspapers and troglodytes have claimed. I assure you that this is not the view of most Australians, the Police, most firemen and the vast majority of scientists who have been warning about this for over thirty years. The two biggest blazes were in fact caused by lightning strikes, particularly dry lightning. If there has been any hindrance to better fire management, it is the cutting of funds to Parks and Wildlife Management and to research into fire prevention, by successive conservative governments and the failure to heed repeated warnings by Fire Services that more resources would be needed this summer under conditions of severe drought and higher temperatures. Thanks to the Germans too, for taking the fight against another huge coal mine (Adani) straight to Siemens, as we may soon be denied the right to protest in this way


With the people more or less taken care of, I have been thinking about our wildlife. A lot of people around the world are making pouches for orphaned and injured injured animals. I shall list some patterns and links at the end of the post for this and if you do make some, the best place to send them is probably WIRES* since they are big enough to handle the influx and distribute them as needed. I am also contributing in a small way to one or two places, especially Kangaroo Island which has been severely damaged and was previously home to the only disease -free koala population and was also a sort of Noah's Ark for other endangered and endemic species. With emergency needs now most likely being met, I am very concerned about their future. Koalas are highly specific in the type of Eucalypts which they can eat, so I have made small donations to the Port Macquarie Koala Sanctuary, which has a program for replanting and restoring their habitat which was already greatly depleted due to land clearing and development. The Koala Sanctuary's water station project which supplies water to animals still in fire zones has exceeded expectations and additional funds are being be used to fund a breeding program as well.
Both the Port Macquarie Koala Sanctuary and the Australian Koala Foundation enable people to adopt a specific koala and follow its progress which could be a nice idea for a child's birthday. I know it's just another way of raising funds, but it's a rather nice one and way better than a plastic pen and pencil set.


Cute as they are, koalas – and they are not bears! (see below) are by no means the only animals which need our help. The World Wildlife Fund  says that the fires have claimed an estimated 1.25 billion animals. All kinds of small mammals such as bandicoots, possums, bats, wombats, birds, even lizards and echidnas and many kinds of kangaroos need pouches too. I know many people in Europe are very shocked to learn that many animals are having to be put down. The hard truth is that not only do injured and orphaned animals require enormous investments of time – the wombat we rescued many years ago needed feeding with an eye dropper every hour and could not be deprived of body warmth for more than a few minutes before becoming severely distressed, but even if they survive their injuries, which is difficult at the best of times, there is no feed for them in the bush and they can rarely be re -released into the wild. By the time they are fit and well and the bush has recovered enough, there is a good chance that they will have grown overly dependent upon humans and will never survive in the wild. We gave ours to a wildlife park when she was big enough, but she went into a deep decline without her 'parents' and had to be returned to us. 

 Many of the animals rescued after the Tasmanian fires last year also ended up being killed on the roads because they had become used to well -meaning folk leaving food there for them. Wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres are taking as many as possible, but they and the vets are probably in a far better position to assess which animals are likely to survive and have a good chance, rather than prolonging the suffering of those which aren’t. [Farmers are also having to kill large numbers of animals because they are injured  or there is simply not enough feed and water to go around. In South Australia, tens of thousands of camels are being shot too because they are competing for water, though I am sure everyone would would prefer it if something more intelligent and humane could be done with them]. These things will only get worse if climatic conditions continue to deteriorate.

When the bushfires are over, I will contribute to the WWF's Two Billion Trees Program which will not only provide for the animals but will help to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Between New Zealand's volcano and the one in the Philippines, our bush fires and what's going on in the Amazon, we are going to need a lot more!

About Koalas

PS Scammer Alert!: You will notice that I have recommended donating directly to the Red Cross, as it is not only a well –established,  reputable and international agency, but they keep zero for administration and pass everything on.  I am pretty sure too that with so many celebrities contributing to the Celeste Barber Fund, and the whole world watching, there won’t be any problems there either, nor with the various Country Fire Authorities, though there are rumours of people going door -to -door pretending to be from there or setting up Go –Fund – Me sites whose funds may or may not reach the people in need. Not that there aren't a lot of smaller organisations doing a fantastic job, but it's harder to keep track of who's doing what and what their situation is, given that the fires are still raging, so I'll just mention the bigger ones for now.

Making Pouches
* See Factsheet from Wires for the address - has sewing and knitting for wildlife. Simple and fast patterns
Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network -simple sewing and good advice
The patterns from Piccolo Studios are particularly nice but more complex. However, they also include a tutorial and more detailed dimensions.
I'm sure the wildlife won't care what yours look like.

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