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Bat clinic inundated as wildlife carers sign up en masse following bushfire disaster

Justin Huntsdale, Thursday February 27, 2020 - 15:10 EDT
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The Shoalhaven Bat Clinic in Bomaderry houses about 200 bats, which is 180 more than usual. - ABC

Wildlife carers on the New South Wales South Coast remain swamped with work in the wake of the bushfires, with a flying fox clinic seeing a 900 per cent increase in bats needing care.

At the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic in Bomaderry, it is a team effort to simply clean and prepare food for approximately 200 flying foxes under care.

Ordinarily, they would have about 20.

Tarpaulins are hosed as they hang over clotheslines, new baby bats are being introduced to a larger creche and Wildlife Rescue South Coast (WRSC) volunteer Roslyn Mueller is filling 12 litre tubs with finely chopped pear.

"I started at 9am and I haven't even got one tub done," she said.

"I have another three hours to go."

There are plenty of hungry mouths to feed.

The older bats are fed harder fruits like pears and apples as well as softer options like bananas, grapes, figs, peaches and nectarines.

Fruit for baby bats must be chopped up even more finely.

"The chopping of soft fruit is time consuming, but just knowing we're doing our bit to help them and get them onto the road to recovery and give them some food means I'm really enjoying my time," Ms Mueller said.

Wildlife Rescue South Coast is set to return as a donation partner on Return and Earn vending machines in and around Nowra this month, with the money being used to fund animal feed like fresh fruit and specialised milk formula.

Enormous increase in volunteering

WRSC membership officer, Anne Cherry, said along with the demand for their services, there has also been a dramatic increase in people wanting to volunteer with the organisation.

"We have had three years' worth of memberships in two months," she said.

"It's great, but at the same time it's a little sad, but if this is what it takes to get people involved and acting then it's a good thing."

Ms Cherry now wants to see WRSC become a more outspoken voice for animal welfare.

"The biggest area of need is people to care, but to also step up and be involved in the organisation," she said.

"It's a legal entity and we're a caring organisation but we need to be more proactive in wildlife welfare and for that, we need active members willing to shoulder responsibility."

Mixed fortunes for native wildlife

As the landscape starts to rejuvenate, Anne Cherry said there is a mixed prognosis for the animals that live there.

Flying foxes are coming off three years of difficult conditions due to drought, meaning mothers are unable to produce milk and feed their babies, causing the .

Many possums have lost their homes as trees have burnt and WRSC has taken in 50 kangaroos and wallabies at its facility south of Nowra in Wandandian.

"A lot of birds were able to flee [in the bushfires] but we're getting some birds with lung disorders from breathing in toxic fumes," Ms Cherry said.

"We're seeing a little bit of hope and there's a few babies with lorikeets, wrens and cockatoos."

Part of a successful animal rehabilitation is a suitable release, but with much of the South Coast's bushland burnt, the options are scarce.

"We're always looking for safe release sites and there are lots of wonderful people putting out feed stations and revegetating the landscapes," she said.

"We're working on that but it takes years — there's a couple of areas that aren't burnt and we're looking at those areas to put the recued animals in."


© ABC 2020

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