'Second Wave' Of Mass Bushfire Deaths As Surviving Animals Starve
Wildlife rescue groups hold grave fears that animals which survived the devastating bushfires may now perish from starvation.
Rescue teams are now accessing burnt-out areas of South Australia's Kangaroo Island after fire tore through, as part of a huge wildlife rescue effort involving the RSPCA.
Paul Stevenson, CEO of RSPCA South Australia, said rescuers are starting to find native animals in an "extremely poor condition" due to lack of food and water.
Video taken by the RSPCA during a recent rescue operation shows staff driving through burnt-out areas in search of koalas, kangaroos, reptiles and echidnas.
"We don't know how many animals are fending for themselves in totally barren landscapes," Stevenson said.
But he said a "second wave of mass wildlife deaths" looms.
"With so many areas still not accessed, our fear is these animals being found are just the tip of the iceberg," Stevenson said.
It remains unclear exactly how many animals will die in the crisis as bushfires continue to burn across multiple states. but several ecologists estimate the number will rise above one billion.
In an earlier interview with 10 daily, ecologist Chris Dickman explained that figure includes wildlife killed instantly by the flames, as well as those which will starve as they seek refuge in areas with little food or water.
The RSPCA on Friday announced the next phase of its bushfire response plan will see volunteers distribute feed to identified wildlife survival pockets.
“This is a dynamic situation and this plan for targeted, ground-based feed distribution will evolve as more areas are accessed," Stevenson said.
"But there is an immediate need to get food and water to as many of these animals as possible."
The organisation has issued an urgent plea for volunteers to help deliver feed, to help support exhausted workers already working on the island.
The RSPCA said volunteers would work in teams to distribute food and water to affected animals, and collect fresh feed for injured animals on the mend.
The operation is expected to last at least three months, as vegetation regrows on the island.
Extra RSCPA staff will arrive on the island next week. An RSPCA vet and nurse will also continue to care for injured wildlife at the main triage centre in Parndana.
The organisation is urging local residents to pass on information about any known locations where surviving wildlife need food and water supplies.
“We are very much reliant on local knowledge to help us find these animals,” Stevenson said.
Anyone wishing to volunteer should register their interest online.