Thursday 16 January
7am Abby Smith, a senior forest and wildlife officer, is working to get her Wildlife Triage team from the RAAF Base at East Sale to Mallacoota to relieve the current team.
Poor visibility from bushfire smoke left them stranded yesterday and again delays their 8am flight on a RAAF Spartan plane until 10.30am. But as a Wildlife Triage Unit coordinator, there’s plenty to keep Abby busy, including fielding media calls.
11.30am The team, which also includes a Zoos Victoria veterinarian, veterinary nurse and specialist keeper, are met at the airport and driven to the Mallacoota Community Hall, where the unit is based.
12pm Abby starts rebuilding seven extra specialist transport crates for injured koalas that had to be dismantled for the flight to Mallacoota.
1pm onward Among the visitors to the hall are two vets from New South Wales who donate specialist veterinary supplies.
The wildlife triage team carefully prepare 11 koalas, most of them critically ill, to be airlifted to specialist care at Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo. Abby says it’s stressful for both the animals and the humans looking after them. ‘But we try to keep it to a minimum because it can have a really negative affect on these already seriously ill koalas.’
Before they leave, all the animals are checked, with the sickest boarding first. They all need food, water and a branch to cling to for the journey to more intensive medical care.
4pm With help from the Victorian Fisheries Authority, Parks Victoria, the RAAF and the Navy they get the koalas onto the plane.
After the RAAF plane takes off, Abby breathes a sigh of relief. Then she helps out five Red Cross staff that have just landed, giving them a lift to Mallacoota.
5pm Back at the Wildlife Triage Unit, Abby sets up the administration for incoming and outgoing wildlife, and speaks with vets about the animals treated and transported today.
She also helps clean up after the koalas’ departure and organises the many donations of items like blankets and towels. While it’s incredibly thoughtful of people to donate goods, Abby says they haven’t the space for any more and the best way to help is to donate money to the Bushfire Wildlife Emergency Fund. That way, they can get exactly what medical supplies each injured animal needs.
6pm The team finally get to sit down together and share a meal (and a debrief).
7pm Two seriously injured koalas arrive. Sadly, one is too badly hurt, and they make the difficult decision to euthanase it.
7.30pm An orphaned red-necked wallaby joey is brought in, assessed and treated.
8pm Abby checks in to see if the koalas flown to Melbourne made it ok.
10pm Abby gets to her hotel.
11.30pm Head hits pillow.
Start it all again tomorrow.
Page last updated: 27/07/20