Saturday, December 18, 2010
VICTORIAN BUSH FIRE AND WILDLIFE REPORT
March 22, 2009
To find out how best to help and support the people and wildlife involved in the Victorian bush fires, I went down to Victoria, accompanied by Dr. Zali and another friend, to meet those affected and to see the devastation first hand. In particular, I met with the wildlife carers and vets in these areas who dedicate their lives to wildlife.
On the first day, we went into one of the worst affected areas. Very little could have prepared us for what we saw. We were surrounded by the blackened remains of what was once eucalypt forest and had been home to countless wildlife. There was nothing left except ash and burnt-out trees for as far as the eye could see and the bush was so quiet.
We spent four days traveling to many of the affected regions, meeting people and wildlife. We were told unbelievable stories of survival and saw heartbreaking scenes of destruction and desolation.
But amidst all the tragedy and devastation there was a lot of hope and I had the privilege to meet some very special and caring people. Some of them were left with only the clothes on their back yet despite all they had lost, they did not lose their incredible passion and commitment to wildlife. Several had already begun rebuilding; all spoke of their plans to start again and to continue their life’s work, of caring for and protecting wildlife. I was inspired by their courage, their hope and their unfailing belief in themselves and the bush to begin again.
It is going to take many years to recover, during which time the people of Victoria and the wildlife will require our ongoing support and understanding. My trip reassured me that the wildlife is getting the help it needs from very caring and committed people. Although much of the wildlife in these areas perished, those that survived are being given every chance at rehabilitation. I will be providing my support wherever needed and will be paying particular attention to the plight of the Strzelecki koalas in the South Gippsland region, whose numbers and habitat have been drastically diminished by the fires. I will update you with more information about this situation in the upcoming months.
I would like to thank Lyppard Australia for their support of Dr Zali Brookes in her organising the Victorian Wildlife Bushfire Relief Fund. I thank them all for their generosity and wish them well with their excellent work in continuing to help the vets and wildlife carers of the bushfire affected areas. With the help of donations from very generous and caring people, the fund has been successful in providing much needed veterinary supplies to these dedicated vets and carers. In this way the fund has played an invaluable role in providing specific support to where it is most needed, ensuring the wildlife are given as much help as possible.
I’d also like to give a special thanks to Avis and Qantas, whose generous support ensured our trip to Victoria was a positive one.
During our trip to Victoria a network station filmed and broadcast a segment which contained some incorrect information which I would now like to rectify. At the end of the segment it was incorrectly stated I was affiliated with one particular wildlife group and was raising funds for this group. Despite my request for a correction, this was not done, so I would like to make it clear that my trip to Victoria was to visit ALL wildlife groups, vets and carers involved in the bushfire response, to see how best I could offer my support. I was not and am not associated with any one particular group. I support any wildlife carer whether they are an individual or belong to a larger group, as long as they are humanely and responsibly caring for wildlife. We met all of our own costs with the support of some generous sponsorship.