Volunteers begin hunt for burned animals

By Amy Coopes in Springwood

As the Blue Mountains bushfire threat eases and hundreds of residents return to their homes, a relief and rescue operation is just beginning for its smallest victims - the wildlife.

Veterinarians across the region west of Sydney are on standby as volunteer crews from animal rescue group Wires hike into scorched bush areas in search of native creatures that have survived the flames.

Residents whose own homes have been destroyed are putting aside their trauma to do everything they can for their animal neighbours, with Wires describing the public response as "mindblowing".

Zoologist and Wires volunteer Anna Felton is co-ordinating operations from the rapid-response Wires ambulance, a 50-animal-capacity van stocked with painkillers, burn cream, pouches for orphaned baby animals and cotton sheets - the only safe way to pick up a burned animal.

Native birds such as cockatoos fled the mountains early, sensing imminent danger. But Felton said other animals, particularly ground and tree-dwelling marsupials such as wombats, wallabies and koalas, were "not as clued into that sort of thing and are more haphazard in their fleeing".

Just 10 per cent of native animals were estimated to have survived the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires which killed 173 Australians in Victoria, with more than one million wildlife deaths.

Apart from burns, typically to the paws and face, many animals are also dehydrated and suffering internal smoke inhalation injuries.

- AFP

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