Back from the Australian Bushfires as part of a Support Mission, two Longleat koala keepers have returned. Specialist koala keepers Graeme Dick and James Dennis flew out after South Australian partners confirmed that extra experienced, hands-on practical help with the support effort would be beneficial, given the scale of the situation.
Longleat is the only zoological collection in Europe to look after southern koalas, part of a long-term partnership with the South Australia Government and Cleland Wildlife Park, in the Adelaide Hills, to support research and conservation programmes for wild koalas.
“We were pleased to have Graeme and James coming out to help us with the recovery process,” said Chris Daniel, Director of Cleland Wildlife Park.
“They have been actively involved in a range of activities to rescue and rehabilitate koalas, wombats, echidnas and other wildlife.”
During their two-week trip, Graeme and James helped rescue koalas, travelled to Kangaroo Island to monitor and treat surviving populations, assisted with work at Minton Farm Rescue and looked after koala burn victims at Cleland wildlife park.
“It’s been a hugely emotional experience for James and myself, but to have the opportunity to lend a hand and put the skills we have learned into practice has been incredible,” said Graeme.
“The teams on the ground have lived through an absolute nightmare and now, with the fires finally dying out, the challenge is to start re-growing the eucalyptus tree, to get the affected areas re-wilded and to put all our efforts into keeping the surviving populations safe and healthy so they can begin to recover.”
In addition to practical help and support with the rescue programme, Longleat have donated A$25,000 to help fund work by SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management), Minton Farm Rescue and Manfred Heide Wombat Rescue.
Longleat also set up a Justgiving page to assist with the recovery programme and to date it has raised more than £12,000.
The team were flown out free of charge by Singapore Airlines, who are official supporters of the Longleat and International Koala Centre of Excellence (IKCE) partnership.
“The public response to the appeal has been simply astonishing and we cannot express how grateful both we and our colleagues out in Australia are,” said Graeme.
“The situation remains extremely serious but absolutely every penny people have donated is going direct to the teams on the ground and it’s having a massively beneficial effect. It is quite literally saving the lives of koalas, wombats, echidnas and a host of other unique Australian wildlife,” he added.