Bushfire Funds Kickstart Wildlife Recovery and Response Plan

23 September 2020

Zoos Victoria has unveiled detailed plans of how it will spend the millions of dollars generously donated to its Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund during this year’s devastating summer bushfires.

An incredible $8.8 million has been donated by both individuals and organisations so far and is now being allocated to fund wildlife recovery work and prepare for any future catastrophic bushfire events impacting wildlife. Initially, donations were used to help fund the emergency response phase, which saw Zoos Victoria’s veterinarian teams, keepers and scientists heading to make-shift wildlife triage centres as part of a state-wide co-ordinated response.

Zoos Victoria CEO Dr Jenny Gray said the not-for-profit conservation organisation gave its all during the unprecedented demand for its work but it is determined to be even better prepared to meet future demand and help communities respond to both human and wildlife needs in the face of such emergencies.

“The unprecedented nature of this summer’s bushfires has seen the resources of agencies across Victoria stretched,” Dr Gray said. “In addition to the immense loss of life and suffering of wildlife more broadly, these fires have posed significant conservation challenges to many species that were already on the brink of extinction. It’s exposed the fragility of our ecosystems.

“Zoos Victoria proudly contributed to the whole of government and Victoria emergency response effort during the bushfires, by deploying our veterinarians and expert staff to the frontline to treat injured wildlife. Now, as we move into the recovery phase, we have assessed our capacity and capability to respond to future events and see that we could be better prepared to bring the full force of our organisation to the emergency response effort, in partnership with other expert agencies.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but we have the expertise and determination to future-proof wildlife health and welfare, and prevent extinction threats being expedited by natural hazards such as bushfires. We are so very grateful to everyone who donated and want to thank them for supporting and trusting us in our fight to save species affected by the fires. We now have significant funds to start making this recovery work happen thanks to the incredible generosity of so many individuals, families, community groups, businesses, philanthropists, all levels of government, corporates and zoos in Victoria, Australia and across the world who sent us donations in solidarity and support.”

Zoos Victoria Bushfire Response and Recovery Plan includes:

• $2.67million for future-proofing Animal Wildlife Health and Welfare. This involves the employment of an Emergency Management Specialist, upskilling staff to administer care to bushfire affected wildlife, the purchase of specialist equipment and machinery, additional veterinary costs and building appropriate facilities to hold evacuated populations of native wild species from threatened habitats.

• $4.8million on Threatened Species Recovery. This is for projects specifically related to threatened species within bushfire areas, in addition to the 27 threatened species already on Zoos Victoria’s “Fighting Extinction” list. Among them, housing for a Spotted Tree Frog collection, a specialist Native Rodent Biologist, and work to find and recover the Smoky Mouse and Broad-toothed Rat.

• $330,000 to Nature-based Community Recovery. This will assist in rebuilding local communities devastated by the bushfires, along with associated partners as part of a larger recovery effort.

“These projects represent opportunities to help species at risk and, in turn, our natural environment and our communities in their response and recovery,” Dr Gray said. “There’s always more work to do, but we’re up to the task.”

To make a donation to the Zoos Victoria Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, visit www.zoo.org.au/fire-fund/