Victoria is no stranger to bush fires. The first recorded bush fire, called Black Thursday (1851), destroyed 5 million hectares and claimed the lives of 12 Australians, 1 million sheep as well as thousands of cattle. Black Saturday in 2009 only destroyed 450,000 hectares but claimed the lives of 173 Australians and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
More recently in January, 2014 the Grampians Bushfire destroyed 51,800 hectares and claimed a single life. The significance of this fire is that its intensity created a convection column measuring 12-km wide that generated its own weather including lightning strikes.
However what many of the statistics do not include are how bush fires wreak havoc on the wildlife in areas like Victoria and South Australia. Next to the loss of human lives, these animals are the real victims. A bush fire that sweeps through a wide area can threaten entire species. One example is the endangered Mallee Emu-wren species, which is thought to have been wiped out in recent fires.
Helping Animals During High-Risk Bush Fire Situations
Fortunately there are things we can do to help save these creatures from a potentially deadly fate, especially during high-risk times of the year. Some of these things are similar to how you would protect your pets, like the importance of keeping them hydrated and away from high-risk areas. Here is some additional information to help you protect the wildlife around your home.
- Fresh Water – The wildlife around your home could also benefit from having fresh water available. Whether these animals have migrated to the area where you live because they are escaping fires or just in search of water due to the high temperatures, you can help by leaving bowls of fresh water outside.
- Rescuing Animals – Rescued animals that suffer from burns should be loosely wrapped in a towel to protect burned areas and then placed in a cardboard box. Call a wildlife rescue centre as soon as possible. Put the box in a quiet, dark, warm place until help arrives. In the meantime, offer the animal water but refrain from giving it food. Some medical treatments work better if the animal has an empty stomach.
- Support Conservation – Wildlife conservation efforts work to protect threatened and endangered species in an area. They also spread awareness about the importance of animals to human survival, with the goal that future generations will be able to enjoy the world without the existing threats to wildlife. When you support wildlife conservation, then you are helping to protect wildlife and reduce some of the negative human effects on it.
Because they occur with increasing frequency, size, and intensity, bush fires are one of the most serious threats to wildlife in Victoria and its surrounding areas. Veterinarians and other wildlife caretakers report that very few birds, animals, and reptiles survived the devastating fires. The extensive damage means that we may not know for many years just how much the bush fires impacted Australian wildlife.
Where to Report an Orphaned, Sick, or Injured Animal
Wildlife Victoria is one of the organisations that provide a voice for sick or injured animals. If you find an animal that is orphaned, sick, or injured, whether from bush fires or any other reason, then contact the Emergency Response Service at 13 000 94535. They have a comprehensive database to help locate the nearest volunteer who is both available and has the necessary experience. The volunteer will then determine the best course of action.
Everyone at Wildlife Victoria is committed to making a difference when Australian wildlife needs help. You can help make a difference when you support wildlife conservation efforts and become familiar with how to react when you find an orphaned, sick, or injured animal.