In a school hall north of Adelaide, some of the most vulnerable victims of South Australia’s bushfire crisis are being treated at a makeshift hospital.
A tent city has been set-up to accommodate more than 100 koalas found burnt, dehydrated and displaced in the aftermath of last month’s Adelaide Hills fire.
Around the clock a team of more than 150 volunteers, including at least 80 trained veterinary staff, moves tent to tent tending to weary patients.
There’s an intensive care unit and a burns unit, a treatment area, a chlamydia section, a baby section and indoor and outdoor trees for those ready to climb.
Each koala is named, has a medical record and, when the team is satisfied it has sufficiently recovered, will be released back into the wild.
The hospital has already discharged 35 patients – whose names are now displayed proudly at the door of the hall – though some could not return to their decimated homes.
But, nearly three weeks after fire first ripped through the hills, injured koalas are still arriving daily.
“We’ve had a few come in that were just singed all over,” Jane Brister, director of Adelaide Koala Rescue, said on Wednesday.
“It’s almost as though they were curled in a ball when the flames, the heat just went straight over the top of them.”
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We’ve all got a little crush on Tank. This beautiful, buff boy clearly avoided the fires in Cudlee Creek. He was picked up by AKR Crew tonight in an area now devoid of gum trees. Tank wasn’t coping after the extreme heat today – there’s not much shade left in his territory. He came into our emergency koala centre dehydrated and with a high body temp. We’re currently cooling him down a little and giving him fluids. We expect he’ll be fine after TLC but now where to release him… Call AKR 24/7 on 0413 185 771 for rescue and/or koala advice only To donate or volunteer visit akr.org.au #tank #buff #gorgeousboy #luckyone #cudleecreek #bushfire #adelaidehills #adelaidekoalarescue
The worst injuries are in koalas who escaped the flames by climbing to the top of trees but burnt their paws descending the searing trunk or while searching for food on charred land below.
Caring for the injured can be heartbreaking work. Some koalas brought to the centre are in a condition so severe they must be euthanised.
Ms Brister says the volunteers have found the experience “overwhelming and in some cases harrowing”.
“We’ve got a lot of people on our team who have seen things that they can’t unsee, who are going to need counselling,” she said.
“We’ve got team members who are traumatised because they want to be out there 24/7.”
Adelaide Koala Rescue operates year-round, usually treating up to 35 patients at any given time.
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Rest In Peace Dundee. This poor fella is typical of the many koalas still being rescued from the Adelaide Hills by Adelaide Koala Rescue. He managed to avoid being burnt but has suffered dehydration and starvation after his territory in Woodside was obliterated by bushfire. Despite best efforts by our volunteer veterinary team Dundee couldn’t be saved due to respiratory issues and organ failure. There are hundreds maybe thousands of koalas still out there needing help. AKR will continue to rescue and treat them in the hope of saving more lives. To report a koala needing help or just a welfare check call AKR 24/7 on 0413 185 771 To donate or volunteer go to akr.org.au #dundee #woodside #bushfireappeal #adelaidehills #akr #adelaidekoalarescue
Since the beginning of this bushfire and heatwave season, there’s been more than 250 animals rescued and brought into the temporary, larger centre.
But Ms Brister said there has been no shortage of support for the cause, with a GoFundMe page raising more than $80,000 and others offering practical help.
“We’ve had people fly in from interstate to help, we’ve got people from overseas coming over now as well,” she said.
“We’ve also got people volunteering to come and deliver browse (trees) for the koalas, we’ve got people volunteering to wash all the towels that we go through for the bedding.
“The community support has been wonderful.”