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Bushfire and flood: supporting wildlife through and into recovery. Dianna's Paper presented to the 2021 Wildlife carers conference

This paper tells the journey of Warwick and Dianna's work in making Rocklily bushfire prepared, the Bushfires hitting , the aftermath, with flood's wild dogs and mystery diseases  till June 2021. This is copyright and must not be produced or used in any way without permission of Dianna Bisset.

This is the paper presented to the 2021 Australian Wildlife carers conference 

 

Bushfire and flood: supporting wildlife through and into recovery

By Dianna Bisset 2021

My name is Dianna. My husband, Warwick, and I live on a 40 hectare property between National Park, Sydney water catchment and other bush properties. This is our story of the 2019/2020 fires, aftermath and the effect on wildlife.

There will be almost no gruesome graphic content and very limited fire photos for those of us not wanting to exacerbate our PTSD

We bought Rocklily in 2003 and retired here when Warwick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012 . For a less stressful life!

Wombeyan Caves about dead centre of image we are 8km NW into he dark green forest from caves.

Winnie-the-wallaroo, who has survived everything, originally came back 6 months after release near death with blood poisoning from an eye infection. She was successfully treated and has been a frequent visitor ever since. Winnie says be prepared! We chose to live here, so wedecided we had to be prepared for the major threat of bushfire and this shows some of the work. Its taken 7 years to get to the point of feelingreasonably comfrortabe about staying to fight a bushfire.

We do NOT advocate staying.

Preparation: We started renovating our old ‘fibro majestic’ house, installing a new roof and using the old corrugated iron as cladding and lining for a warmer and more fire resistant dwelling. We followed BAL40 recommendations, including stainless steel flyscreens as well as steel sheet window coverings where close trees could cause flame impact. Gaps where kept below 3mm and under the house was completely closed off.

gaps sealed under house

There is a CSIRO-designed sprinkler system that provides a wall of water around the house with droplets big enough not to evaporate but not so big so as to be wasteful. A 12hp electric-start diesel pump, located inside with exhaust vented outside, supplies the sprinkler system as well as two fire hoses on opposite corners of the house. Water comes from the 80,000 litre house tank and, thanks to Warwick’s Dad, we have a lap pool with sump drain providing additional water (and a welcome relief in summer). Another pump and fire hose is installed in the metal-clad insulated pool filter shed. Bushfire Pro is the design of system 

 

 

We put small 'woggle' sprinklers in pens and on sheds with its own pump and water tanks if not connected to main house pump. This gave a 16 meter spary area for wildlife to shelter under near sheds or in pens. Pens were also set up with 2 water sources and metal drums with hay and pellets to feed wildlife for at least 2 weeks if the worst happened.   

We built a fire trailer out of an old port-a-loo trailer, an IBC (1000litre plastic tank), 2 used fire-hose reels and a reliable pump. (used here to fill 200 lt black water feeders replacing temporary smaller water feed stations in burnt area. 

Volunteers also removed kilometres of fencing so animals wouldn’t get trapped. 

Our long-term fire plan included dam maintenance for extra fire-fighting water as well as providing a buffer of cleared ground between the bush and us. Much of the property had previously been cleared for sheep and we had let the bush regenerate ever since we bought; it had become afire threat. Some of the regrowth had to be cleared and we were lucky enough to have teams of volunteers to help clean up the debris. They chipped and raked, trimmed and cleared under our old pines, creating piles of mulch. These were covered with dirt when the fire was imminent.

 

Due to drought, we had been feeding wildlife for 18 months prior to the fire. We got additional stocks for wildlife and us, including first aid, to last three weeks as we figured we could be stuck here for a while. As it turned out it was only 8 days.

Bushfire central, rocklily style.

We had maps to cover the local area, CD radios, satellite and mobile Inter- net, as well as a backup generator. We used the RFS ‘Fires Near Me’ map and arcgis.com for almost real-time updates, and windy weather to watch what the winds were doing.

Yearly working bee's by Deloit removing years of mulch under pine trees paid off!

Pine trees pruned off all branches lower than 6 meters, branches mulched.  

By the time the fire hit we had been working for  7 year's on our  plan where we removed regrowth to turn the land back into the grassy valleys Wombeyan means. We put is zig zag fire trails to break and slow fire below the house.  We chipped and mulched and had 2 huge compost area's covered in 30 cm dirt.

Below house faceing East.  Due west, feeding wildlife due to the drought, all bracken mowed to dirt.  Direction RFS backburn came from hours before main bushfire front  

East and north East (direction main fire front came) 

main wombatorium, soaked with water, cleared of burnables, water and food for a week in metal containers

Main wombatorium prepared

 

The RFS came in mid December and bulldozed a bear-earth firebreak to the NE where fire was approaching from. An added bonus, thank you boys.  Then 2 hours before our road was closed by the back burn National parks strike team appeared and Bulldozed to our west. George explained when two fires meet it will be a conflagration, but he's never seen such a well prepared place and we would be fighting fires from both sides at once.  

Tarps and shade sails were taken down and all loose items around the house and sheds were stowed away removing trip hazards and places to catch embers. We added extra water and food to animal enclosures in- case we couldn’t get to them later. We had what we hoped was a 2 week supply of hay and foods inside house 

23 bails of medow hay, each tray of sweet patato is 18 kg  Roo and wombat pellets 20kg bird seed  a big shopping trip. All stashed inside under heavy tarps. Note ladder for access to roof space to check for fires. 

Two days before the fire hit, Wiggles, a 7 year old wombat and my special boy, turned up as he woud every month or so, and I tried to get him to come inside. Forever 7 he hasn’t been seen since. We know of only 4 wombats, that survived the fire out 30 wombats released. 

Warwick watches backburn to the west trickle in, and gives another mow around his beloved Wollomi pine. 

Fire:

The fire was approaching when the National Parks strike team turned up and explained we would be hit both sides at once as a back-burn was out of control. When the two fires would meet it would create a conflagration. They did some more bulldozing to the SW of us and got out just in time before our 2km access road was blocked.

National Parks bulldozer adding to our containment line as fire approaches 

Some of our hand raised roos, confused but hanging around , only 6 of the 30 survived. Backburn to the west (behind us) . Below main front coming from NE same time. 

It came from the NE, with the main fire flaring over the ridge and then creeping down towards us. The wind picked up when the out-of–control back burn joined in, and we watched the ground fire roar and move in a tongue towards some old pines.

It was time to man the fire trailer. We moved it into position, got the pump going and had 2 new plastic hose nozzles fall apart in my hands. They’ve since been replaced with metal ones.

Looking back at house the whole valley was a fireball: air was alight. We rushed back to start the house sprinkler pump, which we had done many times before, but forgot to turn the fuel on. No photos of this too busy with fire hoses.

Thank heavens for the step-by-step diagram we had prepared and fixed on the wall adjacent. House sprinklers were on for 20 minutes, the worst of it.

 

Between first and second firestorm flame over 

first firestorm leave to SE

Firrestorm leaves in northern hill's of valley and has gone over the house 

calm before next storm returns on southen hills of valley 

second firestorm coming back, will go up forest to south of house

Firs explodes and runs op southern forest Warwick keeps it out of trees near water tank with pump from sump on pool as we started with only 1/2 a main tank of water. 

Then the second firestorm, from the NE, roared up the forest so Warwick started the pool sump pump and used that to keep it from our wood shed and that side of the house.

Second firestorm / flame over returning on the souther side of valley will go up forest to side of house and over house again slamming into our western hill below Langs road. House and shed sprinklers still going, quick look around back of house to west, its really really cold so must be hot on deck. 

 

We alerted the near by RFS crews by CB radio so they knew what the fire was doing. Knowing the road would be blocked and that they had their hands full anyway, we weren’t expecting any assistance.

It was hard to keep our wooden deck wet, even with the sprinklers; such was the drying effect of the hot air and radiant heat. I was using one of
the house fire hoses for this and dousing the ground fire and embers on the slope below the deck. Checking the back of house I realised a fireball must have gone over and ignited the hill behind. Fire was heading for the road where we knew the RFS were working, so another radio call went out to the crews.

 

A lucky mob of 19 Eastern Grey kangaroos made it thru the fire on a well cleared and open space then moved around near the shed with sprinklers as spot fires ignited the minimal grass in the area. Animals that were pushed ahead of the fire through the Rocklily area were incinerated as the confla- gration surrounded us.

The fire, in this area, had many fronts with the steep and rugged terrain creating unpredictable winds and sudden local firestorms. Neighbours a few kilometres away, where we had been releasing wombats, were well pre- pared and also entirely surrounded by bushland. They survived firestorm and flame-over, grabbing Wally (a released wombat) putting him in the bathroom, only to watch a mob of 80 to 90 kangaroos pushed ahead of the fire, get consumed by anther firestorm coming from another direction. They found no bodies or bones at all, and neither did we. It seems it was just too hot.

There were 3 properties in our area where owners stayed to defend, and we were in constant contact, supporting each other via mobile text and CB radio.

Fire came back a few days later from south, but the wind was slight and we only had small spot fires to contend with. Unfortunately the creek lines continued to burn for days, further destroying wildlife habitat. Only a few wombats survived.

Our access road was cleared 8 days after the fire first hit, but the fire was not completely extinguished until the flooding rains of early February.

Rain was forecast, so with help from family and volunteers we raked 200kg of grass seed into dry and burnt ground, and moved huge burnt logs into the creek line to slow water and reduce erosion. We installed a number of silt fences to protect our dams from being filled with ash and silt.

 

Feeding:
We started straight away, while fires still burned and landholders just outside the fire zone (far left in map) were putting out 20kg sweet potato daily to encourage animals onto their 1,000 acres that still had grass and water. So early on there was no wildlife to speak of at west end of Langs road.

We had been putting out feed and water constantly at Rocklily, which is 1km from the middle of Lang’s Rd, an 8km through road. On Lang’s rd feed for gliders was put out in one location well off the road, out of sight. On private property it was always behind buildings or over a rise so that feeding animals would away from danger. Feed and water was put out where there were animal scats and prints or where we knew they had accessed water prior to the fires. Water was added to dry dams to attract wildlife where we could safely leave food. We believe that in the first 2 weeks after the fire we had reached most of the surviving macropods in the area.

There were initally 18 feed stations that we were going to daily and initally all the Rocklily ones were twice daily so the many wildlife could feed when they wanted as most hung around and rested. As the mobs started to form we reduced the number of feed stations, if feed stations had been unused One had just 1 possum and a swampy.

  

 

There were only a few birds left most at Rocklily some in one only location futher in. Many we saw were picked of by 4 wedgetailed eagles when they were caught in smoke updrafts as the fire approached.
Immediately after the fires we had 6 magpies 2 king parrots 6 eastern rosellers 2 fria birds a few cloughs and around 2 wedge tailed Egales Bird
seed was scattered inside a wombatorium as feral cats were moving into the terroritry.

A neighbour who stayed to defend said there were about 20 lyrebirds in his dam during the fire. There seemed to be quite a few surviving lyrebirds but they had it tough trying to find unburnt ground to scratch in. We added worm castings, including worms, to their scratch areas hoping that would help.

Fresh daily quality medow hay was the staple and we ensured it never ran out, but not so much to get trampled on and rot. We were allowing 250- 300 gms of Ambos Kangaroo pellets, which contains a cocciside, for each macropod. We constantly re-assessed what was being eaten and adjusted as needed.

Still some water in the tank and a childs sandpit worked for water, cleared away sharp debris


We use 200 litre drums with stainless water feeders and were able to put
these at many locations. We added our drinking water to dry dams to have
water for those who were initally unfamiliar with the stainless water feeders.

 

Used tables and what we could to shelter hay

We tried to get a water tanker to come and put water in 4 dams on langs but he remained busy till the floods came. 

road but they were still busy with the Bushfire still raging out of control
nearby.
We added a water feeder to an IBC at a property that had about 12 eastern
greys, some wallabies and wombats. Two more water and feed stations
were set up, a kid’s play pool utilized and a surviving glass-top table made a
shelter for hay.

Many shots were using are from wildlife cameras, of which we have quite a few and use constantly.

We improvised for bigger mobs of ‘roos at a property on the Southern end
of Lang’s installing a couple of drums and attached feed trough. These We built shelter where there was none mobs survived as this was where the RFS had been stationed. There was
mob of 80-90 and 2 smaller mobs of around 40 on 2 seperate properties a
few km apart.

 

On the 13kms further in the bush past Rocklily we put containers down and feed wherever there were tracks or scats. The wildlife seemed to be quite mobile initally and numbers were changing quite significantly day to day, we kept a diary of numbers and locations so we knew what was happening. Green pick appeared quickly after light January rain but was not enough given the stress and general condition of wildlife with the ongoing drought.

A member of ARC donated more drums, and we got the set-up right after a wombat managed to break the pipe work, empting the drum. Plastic valves and fittings aren’t always suitable.

As the most wildlife was at Rocklily’s 3 main feed areas we put out food twice daily. We ensured there was no wet food and monitered it closely so that everyone had enough. We heavily pruned any surviv- ing wild plum trees for browse for red necks and swampys.

Some feeding on our house deck allowed us to closely monitor the condition of the wildlife. Even really wild big male eastern greys didn’t mind us quietly watching from inside. This also allowed us to see who was left, and the hand raised brought wild ones up on the deck, and a bonus was to be able to apply mange teament if needed to the wombats as well. And this continues especially when wild dogs are around the Kangaroos heavy with Joey can be found near the house letting their little ones out on the quiet deck.

Spotting a female Wallaroo, not far from a feed station was such a positive thing in the day! Cameras set up at numerous locations gave us a picture of what was still there. We even got to see Frankie who’d lost weight after having disappeared for a while. A single male Wallaroo was the only one seen in the large area we monitored. We have seen him since with Winnie-the-wallaroo .

We use feed stations with flap doors to keep roos and birds out so there’s feed left for the wombats at night. With cameras, these also gave us idea of who was wild or released as our hand raised wom- bats are familiar with usinng flap doors.

We kept a small amount on water in our dam for wildlife. We had used 1⁄2 our tank water supply ( around 70,000 lts ) to fight the bushfire. The area near the dam was feeding close to 60-80 macrop- ods and wombats. Another large feed area was near our macropod enclosure where we left the large gates and shed open with the self serve hay kept dry.

In feed areas we cleaned up and removed excess poo. Feed stations were always left with something to eat.

 

On the January long weekend it was great to have a team of volunteers working for 3 days solid.We Installed a few more 200lt water feeders, to replace various smaller containers. Fantastic also was the receipt of a ute-mounted water tank which was funded by an 11 year old boy in WA who sold Koala mugs he designed. And yes, we used to have koalas here. My arms had been stretched from lifting 20 litre drums to fill the 200 litre water feeders.

We had 3 juvenile mountain brush-tail possums come to feed, but didn’t hear or see any ring-tails or gliders around where they had been. A barn owl survived in our back shed, along with some micro bats that lived there.

We were putting out 21 bails of meadow hay per week, and it was becom- Just one of a number of truck loads of hay! ing hard to get in late January. We bit-the-bullet and worked out with our
supplier when he was likely to get spring hay and ordered 500 bales at
$26 each. Ouch! Then we had to have a somewhere dry so we convert-


ed old covered cattle yards. Once we had removed all metal rails and posts embeded in concrete. We enclosed it all with second hand tin andfree rollerdoors only having to buy metal framing 450 bails fitted in! Doing every thing on the cheap as usual, meant more time and energy we were quite worn out,

So it took one of us all day every day refilling car or ute with bails of hay, water, Kangaroo pellets, bird seed and sweet potato then hitting the roads and tracks to distribute it. We put out some meat for the 6 magpies that survived up at the house. We also had 12 wombats in care at the time.

Warwick and Portia cleaning up, starting to

Officially, the public road was closed right through till after the February build framing to enclose cattle yards. Below rains, yet we had hunters coming and shooting up wildlife from utes along in new hay storage just in time for floods Lang’s rd (for dog food? for sport?) We found 2 joeys thrown out of the
pouch, who both died. A well-meaning local admitted they were dumping

hay on the edge of the roads not thinking of the dangers, and unaware of the out-of-sight feeding already happening. This had to be picked up and moved if it was suitable or removed completely if not. more work.

We noticed mobs of kangaroos getting spooked and suddenly taking off. A big mob of boys would just disappear from feed stations where they’d been happily congregating. We think it was the wild dogs moving in, we started to see dog footprints confirming this.

 

Inapropriate Feeding, costing wildlife lives!

At the Western end of Lang’s Rd we had 1 or 2 people start feeding roadside in late January. These feeds over the next couple of months cost the lives of close to 10 red-necked wallabies and a few smaller Eastern Greys. All hit on the road. 

These food dumps (no water that i found ever) were put on the burnt side of
the road or 200m down a nearby track and so wildlife was attracted across the road away from the unburnt properties where they was grass, water and green pick. There were no footprints or wildlife scats at any of these sites to start with.
Buy the evidence of tracks it seemed the main animals being fed were feral pigs anyway. Finally the well-intentioned person was identified as a wildlife carer, by a face book post travelling some distance, who didn’t seem to understand that the animals didn’t need it and were being hit by the Looky-Loos coming for a sticky- beak. Even after direct contact and asking for help to do some mange treatment locally we got no co-operation. Sadly this continued until May. It broke my heart as a couple were even hand raised by us. All bodies were removed to feed the wedgetailed eagles, and someone even put hay where we were dumping some of the bodies up a small side track?.

We had another well-meaning person dump a wet and rotting huge round bale of hay at the Wombeyan Caves campground. A photo was posted on Face Book saying the wildlife are starving and this hay and he saved them. It went viral. The only problem was that the kangaroos feeding in the photo were obviously healthy with fat tails. Then all hell broke loose for the NPWS staff at the Caves, with edicts banning the feeding of wildlife being dumped from on high. The offending round bale was removed, by us but could not be used elsewhere as it was old coarse rotting oaten hay not very nutritious for wildlife.A trip to the tip. By then there were convoys coming from Sydney dumping everything from ham sandwiches in opened blister packs water on one side, straw and piles of rotting fruit, to water containers with who knows what fermenting in them. I commented on their posts online begging them to stop and remove it all. It was a nightmare: kangaroos and a wombats (one of our wild ones) were getting hit on the roads, so we removed as much as we could, filling countless feed bags; an extra bur- den we really didn’t need.

One day a guilty convoy that had dumped the round bale and was making about 1⁄2 the mess, turned up at our gate. I was not impressed; and so began a rapid class in appropriate support feeding. They had known all along that we were here but never bothered to contact us. We accepted some roo-pellets and small bales of hay, then a few days later another 25 - 20kg

bags generously arrived. We stored then inside but unfortunately they had previously been left on the back of a ute out in the rain and they quickly began to stink; only 3 were not mouldy, so the remainder had to be dumped at the tip. Were these also being fed to wildlife?

 

 

Note no food was dumped inside the 13km track due to our locked gate. Also there we very few deaths if any on the unburnt property adjasent, to the bushfires western end Langs Rd. It had grass and water and tree cover, and no stess of outrunning a bushfire. There were a few small groups of 2 or 3 of dead EG’s nearby in the burnt feed area’s western end of langs rd with no tree cover, i saw no other greys there for a while. Feeding continued!

 

The flood 1 meter in 5 days!

In mid February the rain started and we got 1 metre of rain in 5 days, with most falling on the second night ac- companied by an enormous lightening and thunderstorm. Our rain gauge overflowed at 440mm! Knowing we were in for significant rain, we had put extra feed under coverat all our feed stations in case we could not get access.

The dry gully below the house became a raging torrent, flooding burrows then burying them under tons of stones, rocks and silt or washing them away, Terry wombat and a wild one were found washed out of completely distroyed burrows. Tracks almost washed away, and needed repair before use.

We continued feeding where we could: under cover in our big shed, on the deck, the carport, under tables and anywhere the hay and nuts wouldn’t get saturated. The storms and flooding was another huge stressor for the wildlife.

With better weather, the more remote feeding could re- sume, but Eastern Greys were found dead, lying about in large groups. We knew of 83 bodies including a group of 17 large males like they were arranged in a circle. These were not fed by us, we had not seen this mob; it hadmoved into an area 9 km further into the fire zone, prob- ably pushed there by wild dogs. One dead roo was found hanging out of a wombat burrow. Wombats appeared in
a terrible state as if they’d been flooded out of burrows where they’d been hiding for the 6 weeks since the fires. A couple died as they were munching on hay at feed sta- tions. We had to shoot 3 wombats and a number of roos over the next few weeks. Speaking to a wildlife vet later, he agreed that the deaths were probaby due to myopathy; the major multiple stress events were just too much.

The Langs Rd property that had the most straw and hay dumped even the owner fed straw lost all 80-90 roos, dead or dissappeared.

Track washing away and feed station in top left corner


The next proptery with appropriate feeding lost 2/3 of roos Just one small group we found dead on Langs Rd 2 days after and wallabies. Many died here under buildings, in wood sheds, wherever they could find shelter, we moved alot of them.

We had only 1 large male die where we could find him but know we lost at least 1/3, and at properties we were feeding the 2/3 average was what was lost with the bush tracks smelling of death. We think more survived here as there was only quality food left with access to covered areas.

We estimated the post-flood population of the area at 80-90 Eastern Greys down from nearly 300, about 50 red-necked wallabies out of more than 100-120, and only about 15 wombats after we’d been seeing hearing about 20-25. Beyond heart breaking.

Recent photo of the steep gulys and landscape, still not much growing except crops of weeds on flat hilltops.

 

Wild Dogs kill their way to Rocklily

Winter 2020 also saw an increase in wild dog attacks and a pack
of 5 or 6 had formed in the area. It appeared that they were killing wildlife indiscriminately and not just for food. Wildlife dispersed and many of the macropods that had survived the storms disappeared completely. Footprints, sightings, scat’s and wildlife cameras con-
firmed the increasing dog numbers. We even had one come within a few meters of us as we were sitting with little wombats in a fenced grass play area.


Attempts to shoot them were unsuccessful. Two of our special Winnie-the-wollaroo’s offspring were chased by a dog and haven’t been seen since.
Animals we found dead from wild dog attack, road-kill, illegal shoot- ing or euthanasia were moved to safe places so that predators/ scavengers such as goannas and wedge-tailed eagles could feed safely. It appeared, by the end of January, that the wedge-tails had eaten any rabbits that had survived the fire, and were working on the wild ducks.

We spent two months tracking and gathering information while we waited for a professional dog trapper to be available. He caught 2 dogs and 5 foxes and located a den 50m from the area we suspect- ed it would be. The den was hiding one little pup and the remains of 3 swamp wallabies. It cost us $2200 for that week of trapping.

By then the wildlife numbers had again declined, by maybe another 50%.
The dogs started moving off within a week of the trapping; but they still come and go. We know when they’re around, as the wildlife disappears and the birds are silent.

Here at Rocklily we have external floodlights left on during the night as well as a couple of fox lights. We were advised by one of the dog trappers that the lights act as a deterrent against dogs and they seem to work.

The 1080 baits spread every 500 meters on langs road have killed little, if any. We had a juvernile wedge tailed eagle dead below the house in July. It had probably eaten a fox with alot of 1080 onboard and the quolls have dissapeared as well with fires and baits.

. We have trapped wild cats and try for foxs, and theres a few pigs about as well still. Were still working on control of all these.

 

Birds and gliders needing nest box’s

We now have a nest box program with volunteers helping to build some of the 40 boxes that we’re installing on our own and neighbour’s proper- ties.

Hearing a Yellow bellied gilder call here in January 2021 was the inspiration to get the nest box program started. A small colony of greater gliders survived on langs road where we had been feeding, and with 18 Glider nest boxes will hopefully encourage breeding, replacing lost hollows in their habitat range right through into Rocklily.

 

We have seen Glossy Black Cockatoos come looking for their old nest trees, so for them we’ve bought and started installing ‘cock-a-tubes’, which are nesting boxes made from double layer stormwater pipe proved successful on Kangaroo Island. Knowing the Glossies were returning we felt confident in releasing one that a local found stunned on the side of the road here. We are amazed the main stand of she oaks is unburnt 3 km away as well other stands futher down on the river.

Cockatubes we painted off white to be cooler and installed 10meters up in one of the two remaining large trees 

Dianna did a lot of research looking at what nest box designs were actually used by the targeted species. We have made boxsthat are appropriate for what we have previously. We used 21mm ply for added insulation, and all are hung facing SE to be out of summer sun and storm directions. They are painted light grey/cream as research shows dark coloured boxs can be 18 degrees hotter than ambient summer temperatures. We are using cameras to see whats happening.

When the Covid pandemic hit any assistance we’d had from volunteers completely stopped. 

 

Summary

Fighting the bushfire here has meant we have been able to save much wildlife, and some habitat but that now appears to have been the easy part of this story. It is a rude shock to see that only about 10% of the wildlife that survived the fires, still remains 20 months later.

Eastern grey kangaroos: Now winter 2021, it finally appears that most of the eastern greys from the area have formed a new mob based on our property where there is significant grass, getting shorter, and supplementary feed. The mob of about 30 includes numerous joeys at foot and many still in pouch, with an very unusual number of very large males who amazingly seem to tolerate each other. They have adopted our back shed for the worst weather and remain wild easily spooked by anyone unknown to them. The females are breeding very young, with joeys staying in pouch longer and mums with thin tails needing support. Missy, from our first pair released, now 8, Sadie is 6 and a couple of other hand raised roos have survived fire, floods and dogs: not a lot from so many released. Many locals are very sad to see no macropods at all now. We hope in time they will slowly re-populate.

Wombats: We have 6 or 7 wombats coming around for top-ups of sweet potato, hay and pellets, with just some of those more recently released such as Polly, Starman, Bubule still all trying to find their place far longer than previous wombats have taken. Its really showed us how they are struggling. Those we know that survived till now, Bushy & Frankie out of over 36 have disappeared lately. They had lived very wild lives and were seen form some time as being boys not dispersing we hope there ok. Were working hard at trying to increase wombat usable burrows here. Futher in along our track Denis and Dave who run one of our release pens have seen 2 of the 4 they believed survived fire, and Pearl released recently is around noticed only by her smaller distinctive poo. Lucy is to be released with them this spring. Our other release property, unburnt and adjacent to the fires, had seen an influx of wombats during the bushfire as the back burn there was slow, allowing many wild ones to move there; the burrows are super active.

Wallabies: There are about a dozen red necked wallabies who graze on the edges of the clear grassy areas. It’s a start, and an old swamp Bob now 8 has reappeared a little worse for wear. Hes stopping to listen when we call his name and not bounding away, but we will not approach ( we like to think its Bob anyway). We know of around 12 on the main creek through here and there is probably more in inaccessible areas.

Recovery continues at Rocklily for many years to come

Still trying to sort silt filled dam, that nothing will drink from 

As recovery continues so do the challenges. There’ve been a couple of cases of ‘swollen head syndrome’ in the wild kangaroo population and now a few deaths of wombats from something affecting their brain. In both wild and captive wombats the symptoms seem to indicate Toxoplasmosis but necropsies and all pathology have been inconclusive, and are definite its not toxoplasmosis. Even specialist pathologists over sea’s, studying brain samples, have been unable to find the cause. Dr Howard Raplh believes it to be a viral encephalitis.

How do we pay for all this?

With the inital $1,100 per week feeding before the flooding rains of Febuary.  A population decrease with floods and is still around $300 a week as we needed to supplement the limited wild feed and low protein winter grass. Plus the early outlay for meadow hay were still giving out. Were constantly monitoring what we are doing. Spring will see again a reduction in supplementary feed. Theres just nothing much at all in the bush in the way of grass sadly.

As most of the feeding is for animals that are not actually ‘in care’ we are not eligible for a lot of the ‘bush fire’ funding so our generous families and the Rocklily online shop support much of the work. The wombat calendar is a significant source of income and we are forever grateful for specific assistance from:

• World Animal Protection for 3 weeks of food in February 2020

• ARC for some initial bags of roo nuts, and then sweet potato for many months over summer, buckets of mar- supial milk, medical disposables, a portable pump for flooded burrows, inital plywood for first 19 nest box’s and a fire trailer which is proving very useful for us and our neighbours.

• Humane Society assisting in the clean out of silt that filled the dams. Smaller one thankfully now fixed.

Rocklily centre July 2021 

All our incare wildlife care has continued regardless of the monumental tasks we have faced if you watch us on fb and insta we have not said a lot about all this, and yes Dianna is getting help with PTSD. Warwick Is surviving on his parkin- sons drugs and we support each other and work as a team, and great chums.

Another challenge is the ongoing treatment of mange in wild wombats, where we treat and supply to help others to treat their local wombats. The need appears greater since the bushfires and is heatening to see that so many still care about the local wildlife.

We still consider ourselves privileged to be able to work with our precious wildlife and have the opportunity to care-for and release using best practice in an appropriate location.

Dianna Bisset

Yes Wiggles was the cover boy for our  2020 calendar