Fire fighters are battling devastating bushfires across several Australian states. The 2019/2020 fires have claimed the lives of cherished members of our community, over a billion vulnerable wild animals, as well as hundreds of thousands of farmed animals.
Since December 2019 over 10 million hectares of land has burned right across Australia, that’s the equivalent size of a number of European countries, and largely in prime wildlife habitat. Sadly the forecast for the coming months ahead is not showing any signs of letting up.
Bushfires and heat stress events present a grave and growing threat to animals, particularly Australia’s wildlife, and rescue and rehabilitation efforts will continue for some time.
Our hearts are breaking for the tragic loss of life over recent months, and we are deeply concerned for the months ahead. Fires are still burning, people are still suffering, our emergency services and wildlife carers are still working day and night, and the animals who have been burnt, terrified and left with nowhere to go, desperately need our help.
Jeroen van Kernebeek, Director of FOUR PAWS in Australia
- Donate: The quickest, easiest and best way to support wildlife rescue efforts is to donate to shelters and carers in bushfire affected areas. To donate directly to your local rescue group, please find a list at Backyard Buddies.
FOUR PAWS is also providing support to wildlife rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in fire-affected areas. If you would like to contribute to our bushfire crisis fund, please head to our Bushfire Appeal. All donations to this appeal will go directly to our work to help the affected animals during and after the fires, and to animal rescue and care groups.
You can also donate to state groups focused on protecting wildlife and supporting networks of wildlife rescuers, such as Wildlife Victoria, Help for Wildlife, WIRES (NSW) or Fauna Rescue SA.
- Act local: Conditions throughout Australia have been exceptionally dry leading up to the fires, and even before the fires began, rescue groups had been busy rescuing dehydrated animals. You can help by leaving out shallow bowls of water, which include a few sturdy sticks or stones on one side, enabling smaller animals to escape if they fall in. If you have a backyard pool, check it regularly to ensure wildlife seeking water have not fallen in, or keep it covered.
- Volunteering: If you’re interested in volunteering directly with wildlife, please keep in mind that wildlife carers and shelters are so run off their feet during times of crisis that they have limited time to train new people. Unless you already have considerable experience with wildlife, the best way you can contribute is to make sure you’re trained and ready to help during the next fire season.
- Help injured wildlife: Keep a cardboard box and towel in the boot of your car in case you find an injured animal that you can safely contain. If you do find injured wildlife, wrap them loosely, ideally in 100% cotton fabric, and place them in a ventilated box with a lid. Place the box in a dark, quiet and cool place before getting to your nearest vet or wildlife rescuer.
If you find sick or injured wildlife, please call your nearest vet or one of the following organisations:
Wildlife Rescue Inc 1300596457
Australian Capital Territory
RSPCA ACT 02 6287 8100
ACT Wildlife 04 3230 0033
Wildcare Queanbeyan 02 6299 1966
New South Wales
WIRES 1300 094 737
Sydney Wildlife 02 9413 4300
In NSW, you can also download the IFAW and NSW Wildlife Council's wildlife app, which will give you quick and direct access to the nearest animal rescue organisation.
Wildcare 08 8988 6121 or 04 0888 5341
RSPCA QLD – 1300 264 625
Wildcare Australia – 07 5527 2444
Fauna Rescue – 1300 477 722
RSPCA SA – 1300 477 722
Bonorong Wildlife Hospital and Rescue 04 4726 4625
Wildlife Victoria – 03 8400 7300
Help for Wildlife
24hr State-wide Wildlife Emergency Service – 04 7755 5611
- Have a bush fire survival plan that involves your pets. Prepare your bushfire survival plan by downloading a template from www.rfs.gov.au and find a quick check list here. Your safety is of course central to this plan! You can’t help anyone if you’re not safe.
- Pets, and especially large animals like horses take some extra logistical planning and time to move out of harm’s way. Make sure to keep up to date with fires as regularly as possible and think ahead. Ensure you have containment boxes and transport organised also.
- If you’re heading out to work during a hot day, make sure your animals have plenty of water, shade and cool ventilated areas. Try to arrange a neighbour or pet sitter to check in on them also.
- Get creative by putting their snacks in large homemade tubs of ice, put a paddling pool out in the garden, or leave wet cold towels around.
- Never leave dogs locked in the car, even with windows down and in the shade. Car temperatures can soar to lethal levels in minutes.
- Be careful with walk times, especially for very young and old pets. Instead aim for early morning or later in the day.
- Keep an eye out for heat stress in your pets. If your pet is highly lethargic, relentlessly panting, drooling, vomiting or collapsing, get them to a vet ASAP.
- Especially on extreme days, let your pets come indoors to stay safe in air-conditioned spaces or under a fan. If you’re not comfortable having them access the whole house, quadrant off a space for them and protect floors with old towels or cardboard boxes if this is of concern. If you need to be in an air-conditioned environment, they probably do too.
Together we can make a difference
While we are mourning the loss of such a heart-breaking number of animals, we are determined to stay focused on helping as many as we possibly can right now.
WIRES like many rescue groups have been working tirelessly to help thousands of injured wildlife, animals like little juvenile red-necked wallaby Luka. Luka was found in Ashby Heights, an area which was surrounded by fire in NSW’s Clarence Valley. As all access roads were closed due to the dangerous fires, WIRES volunteers used a boat to transport Luka to safety. He was very stressed and suffered burns to both his back legs.
Though he is still being monitored closely, his carer is feeling positive about his progress so far.
FOUR PAWS has also provided financial support to Where Pigs Fly Farm Animal Sanctuary in NSW, which had to evacuate 120 rescued farm animals due to being in a severe fire risk area. They will purchase an animal trailer with the funds to assist them with similar situations in the future and upcoming fire danger.
Additionally, FOUR PAWS donated funds to Wildlife Rescue South Coast, who are currently in the thick of some of the worst fires our country is facing. They are using these funds to pay for emergency medication, bandages, specialist wildlife food and to supply expert veterinary care.
We will continue to keep in close contact with those on the ground and seek ways to assist their efforts in both the short and long term. Together we can help to speed up the road to recovery and make a real difference.