Sunday, February 26, 2006

Koalas in Brisbane Ranges

adapted from ABC Ballarat
Battle to save koalas in the wake of bushfires
1 February 2006
Reporter: Jarrod Watt

In the wake of bushfires in the Grampians and the Brisbane Ranges volunteers work to save koalas suffering severe injuries and trauma. It was just one week after Rolf Schlagloth and his colleagues from the Australian Koala Foundation had finished mapping the koala habitats of Steiglitz, in the western hills of the Brisbane Ranges, that a massive bushfire erupted, taking a week to bring under control.

He is now part of a small but dedicated team of volunteers, combing the burnt out areas looking for koalas trapped by the ferocious fire which burned more than 6,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

"Exact numbers are very difficult to determine... the fact remains around Anakie the losses are very high - the koala habitat is very good there. Last night I came back at midnight with an arborist who's a very good tree climber, and we rescued another two koalas. We've been out there six days and nights and rescued a dozen koalas and found 20 or 30 dead ones, and that's just the ones we've found. There are many other teams and helpers out there who collect them from the ground. We were just in one small area near Anakie - with a fire over 6,000 hectares in size you multiply that number out, it's a large number," he says, adding that it's not just the Brisbane Ranges which saw a massive destruction of koalas and their habitat, it's also the fires which continue to burn in the Grampians.

"Again, the numbers vary over the type of habitat, but definitely are - or I should say they probably were - because with the intensity of the fire, koalas have very little chance to survive. They are such an animal that if there is a fire they go up into the tallest part of the tree, and fire being fire it goes up like a chimney, and the koala is trapped up there, either burnt or severely injured. The few trees that don't get burned totally, there's very little leaves left, so even if they do survive, there is very little to eat for them."

"Koalas take only water from the leaves unless they're in disease status or there's a drought, and then they need to come on the ground. If they don't get water from the leaves, they have to come down onto the ground; with the fire being very hot they burn their paws, so most injuries we see apart from direct burns or smoke inhalation are burnt paws," he says, explaining more of the process volunteers undergo to provide aid to the injured animals.

"Every few hours they have to medicate their paws and put ointment on and so forth - but these are things that can be healed. Smoke inhalation is very bad, because you can't actually see it; the poor things get pneumonia and all sorts of eye infections and so forth. If they don't die from the fire directly their survival chances even after that are small."

1 comment:

Pandabonium said...

So sad to hear of the fires and the poor koalas. It has been about 15 years since I visited that area. My wife, K, taught Japanese for six months at a school in Ballarat about 10 years ago on an exchange program. We each have fond memories of it.

Seems like Australia has trouble with bushfires annually in one place or another. Maybe not an accurate impression. I grew up in southern California, and there fires are a problem every year - followed by mudslides.