Construction has just finished on Australia’s largest mobile wildlife hospital, ahead of a gala launch in Byron Bay on Thursday, 26 November.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia is contributing $250,000 to provide equipment and support the mobile hospital’s operating costs.
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital Ltd will operate the $700,000 facility which can be driven to any wildlife crisis hotspot to treat, rehabilitate and care for native animals in distress.
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital Foundation Vet Dr Bree Talbot said taking the mobile hospital to a disaster zone will greatly improve survival rates for injured wildlife.
“Within minutes of arrival, our team of wildlife expert vets will be dressing wounds and administering fluids, pain relief and medication,” Dr Talbot said.
“It means we can begin treatment before severe clinical signs, infection, or dehydration sets in,” she said.
The mobile hospital is completely self-sufficient with solar power, satellite communications, its own water supply, waste storage and state-of-the-art veterinary equipment.
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital Founder and CEO Dr Stephen Van Mil said they conceived the idea of a large mobile wildlife hospital two years ago.
“Then the catastrophic bushfires of last summer hit and we realised that the need for something like this is greater than ever,” Dr Van Mil said.
“Seeing dozens of injured koalas sitting in laundry baskets waiting for care was heartbreaking,” he said.
“Thanks to funding from WWF we’ve been able to buy cutting edge X-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy, and anaesthetic machines, critical care cages, and a rapid test kit to check koalas for chlamydia,” Dr Van Mil said.
WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes Darren Grover said donations from WWF’s generous supporters had enabled WWF to provide the veterinary team’s wish list of specialist equipment.
“This mobile hospital, the size of a semi-trailer, really is wildlife care on steroids. For many injured animals, the immediate, high level treatment they receive will be the difference between life and death,” Mr Grover said.
Mr Grover said the funding was provided under WWF’s Koalas Forever project which aims to double the number of koalas in eastern Australia by 2050.
“The bushfire crisis showed a real need to boost wildlife response capacity in key parts of eastern Australia where koalas are most threatened, and where the recovery potential is greatest,” he said.
Koalas Forever is a key project in WWF’s Regenerate Australia plan – the largest and most innovative wildlife and landscape regeneration program in Australia’s history.
Under Regenerate Australia, WWF is seeking to raise $300 million program, over 5 years, to help restore wildlife and habitats, rejuvenate communities impacted by the bushfires, boost sustainable agriculture and future-proof our country.