Bushfire emergency response for wildlife

Bushfire relief for wildlife rehabilitators following the 2019–20 bushfire season.

Koala rescue Phascolarctos cinereus by NPWS staff after wildfires in the Warrumbungle National ParkFollowing the devastating 2019–20 bushfire season, the NSW Bushfire Inquiry acknowledged the need for an increased focus on wildlife response in bushfires and other natural disasters.

Recommendation 53 of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry proposes that the government develop and implement a policy for injured wildlife response, rescue and rehabilitation in bushfires, including developing a framework for interaction with emergency operations and consideration of wildlife response in operational plans.

The NSW Government, through the Environmental Trust (2019–22) and NSW Koala Strategy (2022–24), is funding a Bushfire Emergency Response for Wildlife Program. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service manages the program, supporting wildlife rehabilitators and the veterinary sector to recover from the 2019–20 bushfire season and prepare for future extreme events.

The program provided direct grants to the wildlife rehabilitators sector through the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, improving coordination and capability for wildlife response in bushfires and improving access to veterinary support for wildlife in emergencies. Since 2020, up to $1 million in funding has been delivered, with an additional $1 million committed to the end of the 2023–24 financial year.

Current initiatives include:

  • working with external agencies under NSW emergency management arrangements to develop a wildlife response plan
  • establishing a technical adviser (wildlife) role in incident management teams for hazard reduction burns and bushfires
  • promoting and further developing wildlife first response training for firefighters
  • establishing wildlife emergency response teams
  • investigating further trials of a televet service for wildlife.

These projects continue to be delivered in collaboration with the wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary, firefighting and emergency management sectors.