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First responders tackling bushfires in Australia are being advised to kill baby kangaroos and koalas who have been orphaned as a result of the crisis.
Firefighters have found numerous scared, suffering animals while working to contain the bushfire crisis in Australia, but a government-issued document known as the The Victorian Response Plan for Wildlife Impacted by Fire states rehabilitation is not supported for all creatures.
Rather than being handed over to rescue centres, the document advises any orphaned ‘milk dependent joeys’ found in the fire zone should be euthanised.
The government justifies this decision by claiming these animals ‘require significant long term care and cannot be successfully returned to the wild’, Yahoo! News reports.
The document goes on to describe methods of euthanasia, which include lethal injection, blunt forced trauma and shooting.
In spite of the government’s claims, numerous wildlife carers have succeeded in raising baby koalas and kangaroos.
Nikki Medwell, operator of Rex Box Wildlife Shelter in Victoria, spoke about the controversial instructions, saying she feels the government are doing nothing to help the suffering, native animals.
Overabundant animals like macropods or koalas they don’t deem necessary to rescue.
It doesn’t matter whether they’ve been burnt, if they’re found on the fire ground they’re shot.
So that’s totally healthy, viable wildlife, including koalas which some are saying are on the brink of extinction.
Though the document describes koalas and kangaroos as ‘common species’, koalas are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List. Fires have decimated the animals’ natural habitat, with more than 20,000 koalas killed on Kangaroo Island alone.
A Victorian Department of Environment (DELWP) spokesperson defended the Response Plan, saying the guidelines remain open to interpretation.
The spokesperson said milk dependent joeys who have no fur, and have their eyes closed and ears down, should be euthanised, but those with fur are assessed on a case-by-case basis. According to National Geographic, it takes about six months for baby koalas to grow ears and hair.
A statement issued by the DELWP said:
A range of factors shape whether injured wildlife should be rehabilitated or euthanised.
This includes the duration of the rehabilitation period… The sooner wildlife can be rehabilitated and released, the greater their chance of survival.
The DELWP requires detailed records to be kept on euthanasia and rescues, though the figures for the current fire season have not yet been collated, meaning it’s unclear how many joeys have already been euthanised.
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Yahoo! News Australia
IUCN Red List
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