South Africa

Animals die of dehydration, starvation after fire ravages Kangaroo Island

Animals die of dehydration, starvation after fire ravages Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island, South Australia - A heart wrenching picture of a koala sitting by the water beside another, deceased, koala has shone light on the dire situation of the wildlife survivors of the Australia’s Kangaroo Island bushfires.

As the search and rescue mission for the survivors of fires continues, an animal charity says the number of animals needing to be taken into care is increasing as starvation and dehydration start to hit.

The Humane Society International, which took the image, said the fact that they’re seeing koalas all over the island curled up and “shut down” like that one on the ground instead of in the trees was indication that a lack of food and water is taking its toll. 

There have been other animal carcases, like that of the dead koala in the water, littering the ground across the decimated bushland on the island.

Kelly Donithan, HSI's disaster response specialist said they managed to rescue that particular koala and that she was doing well in the emergency rehab at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.

"The survivors have little to no energy reserves left and we are finding them sitting on the ground totally shut down - all too often with other corpses nearby.

"Sadly, this is the reality on the ground on Kangaroo Island," she said.

 Although casualty numbers fluctuate day by day, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is also seeing an upturn in wildlife casualties being brought to its emergency triage centre. Although it’s believed that it's always ideal to leave uninjured surviving koalas high in the trees in their natural habitat, the near total fire damage means that their natural food sources have been turned to ash, and increasing numbers of surviving koalas are now being found on the ground and dehydrated.

“Over recent days it’s been quite a bit cooler, so perhaps some animals are starting to move more than they did before in a desperate search for food and water, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase. As the days go by, these animals are weakening more and more to a point where they require intervention because there’s virtually nothing left for them out here,” Donithan added. 

The HSI team has been building water stations in remote areas where koalas have been seen perching in inaccessibly high trees, and photographs from camera traps set by the charity show that koalas are climbing down to drink. 

HSI has also delivered building materials to the island to allow for the construction of new temporary shelters at the wildlife park triage centre to help accommodate the growing number of animals needing veterinary and longer term care.

Erica Martin, CEO of HSI/Australia explained that for many of those animals, their natural habitat was gone as there simply wasn't anything to sustain them. 

"So although the hope is that in time once the land recovers they will be able to be released back to the wild, that’s not likely to happen for some time yet. So for the meantime, we need to build these little guys a new, temporary home, and thanks to the donations we’re receiving, we’re able to get to work," Martin said.