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    HELPING HANDS: Horsham Veterinary Hospital’s Debbie Delahunty, left, was among a team of vets helping treat injured koalas saved from a bushfire in the Adelaide Hills.

Horsham vet jumps to aid koalas

By SARAH SCULLY

Horsham Veterinary Hospital staff made a quick trip to Adelaide to help treat burnt, starving and dehydrated koalas rescued from fire-ravaged bush land.

Dr Debbie Delahunty and nurse Belinda Collins arrived in Adelaide late Thursday night to provide additional veterinary support to Adelaide Koala Rescue workers.

The rescue group has been out in force following the 25,000-hectare Cudlee Creek fire in December, which, off the back of an extreme heatwave, has devastated koala colonies throughout the Adelaide Hills. 



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“I was talking to a friend in Gawler who has a vet practice and he said there was a need for vets to help out over there,” Dr Delahunty said.

“I was on holidays, so I thought I might as well head over.”

Dr Delahunty said she and Ms Collins put in a long day’s work at Paradise Primary School, helping some of the more than 100 koalas rescued from the fire ground. 

“We started at 8am on Friday and worked through until 9pm, with only a 15-minute sit-down for lunch, so it was a pretty full-on day,” she said.

“We did whatever we could to help. A lot of the koalas needed bandages changed, so we sedated them and changed their bandages.”

Dr Delahunty said many of the koalas required fluid treatment due to dehydration. 

“A lot of them have kidney damage because they were so dehydrated,” she said.

“Some koalas also needed treatment for diarrhoea – we pretty much helped out anywhere we could. There were still some koalas coming in while we were there, so we treated and triaged them.”

Dr Delahunty said fortunately, several koalas were ready to be rehabilitated back into the wild, once the rescue group found a suitable habitat for them.

She praised the efforts of everyone involved in koala rescue and rehabilitation. 

“There have been a lot of South Australian vets and volunteers who have done way more than us – but we felt fortunate we could help out a little,” she said.

There are grave concerns for koala populations across Australia, with fires destroying about six-million hectares of land.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said Australia might have lost up to 30 percent of koalas on the New South Wales’ north-west coast alone due to the bushfire crisis.

“Numbers are a little precarious in certain areas, particularly in New South Wales, which has been experiencing extreme drought,” Dr Delahunty said.

“That, plus the fires, are really starting to take their toll.”

Dr Delahunty encouraged people to consider donating money to koala rescue organisations. 

“I know there are a lot of ways people can donate, but if they want to donate to something that specifically targets animals, Adelaide Koala Rescue or SAVEM Kangaroo Island are two good places to start,” she said.

Up to 25,000 koalas, from a population of 50,000, are feared dead following devastating fires on Kangaroo Island. 

South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management, SAVEM, is directing injured wildlife to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, which has set up a gofundme page for donations. 

People can search Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park or Adelaide Koala Rescue on Facebook for more information.

A Zoos Victoria team is also working to treat injured wildlife in the state’s bushfire zones, including East Gippsland.

The entire January 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!