Bushfires spark koala crisis on mid north coast
Thirsty koalas badly in need of a helping hand have been rescued from a fire ground after a blaze tragically killed hundreds of the furry friends on the Mid North Coast.
The fire destroyed 2650 hectares of bushland in an area south of Port Macquarie known as a koala breeding ground before rescuers with the right "koalafications" were allowed in and found four surviving but badly singed animals.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan, who estimated 350 koalas would die, said yesterday it was a risky operation to rescue the four and take them in because the fire could start again due to high winds.
"When you have a fire you get this great hit of animals, they don't come in drips and drabs - it's like an avalanche, it's an onslaught," she said.
"It's just so dangerous - an hour after they were searching the area caught alight again, the winds are so high so if there's embers it sets it off.
"We're really comfortable we'll have a win with these (four) koalas, but we've just scratched the surface."
The NSW Rural Fire Service gave the all-clear for rescuers to enter the fire ground after bringing the blaze under control in recent days.
The Koala Hospital previously released disturbing footage of the animals lying burned to death on the devastated fire ground.
Ms Flanagan said she and other volunteers at the hospital had been touched by the fire and called it a "national tragedy".
"It's just a perfect habitat, it's got all the right species of trees … it's going to take 30 years to recover from this," she said.
"I'm an animal person, like a lot of us out there it's animals first, people second in our world.
"We've been going for 47 years, we're the oldest wildlife hospital in Australia and we're the fair dinkum only koala hospital in the world."