Help Wildlife Near Me app designed to save koalas, other animals during bushfires

Scientists looking for koalas in the Blue Mountains started making some exciting discoveries, but the Gospers Mountains mega-fire ripped through the ancient bush.

Kellie Leigh was on the hunt for endangered marsupials with her poop-finding expert and border collie, Grut.

“We had a real story of hope at the start; we were finding koalas where we didn’t expect, using tree species we didn’t think we could use,” said Dr Leigh, executive director of Science. for Wildlife.

“Everybody… was like, ‘Oh, there are no koalas in the Blue Mountains and if there are, there won’t be many because it’s a country degrees.'”

Dr Leigh said the globally recognized icon was hunted extensively for her fur in the Blue Mountains in the 1800s.

Dr. Leigh found evidence of koalas in an unexpected location, then a mega-fire ripped through the area. (ABC News: Kathleen Ferguson)

“There are very old logs of people going out around Hazelbrook and the lower mountains and shooting koalas for the fur trade, so the numbers have really been turned upside down,” she said.

According to research by Science for Wildlife and other agencies, there are between 1,000 and 3,000 koalas in the World Heritage-listed area.

“We were still trying to solve this problem.”

When aid does more harm than good

Dr Kellie Leigh and volunteer Kat Boehringer walk through fire-affected bush in the Blue Mountains.
Dr. Leigh with Blue Mountains resident and volunteer Kat Boehringer.(ABC News: Kathleen Ferguson)

Naturally, people tried to help when the fire tore through the mountains.

But some people didn’t know how to help, and unfortunately some may have done more harm than good.

The koalas were given water from a bottle by passers-by, which Dr Leigh said clearly had the best intentions.

But she said it could lead to health complications because animals don’t normally drink that way.

To help provide people with the right information and to help koala numbers recover in the Blue Mountains, an app has been created specifically for the area.

The Help Wildlife Near Me app has been supported by multiple agencies and is funded by Landcare NSW. The federal government has come online to support the pilot project.

An application to help save the lives of animals

Dr Kellie Leigh's hands holding a phone with the main app screen displayed with her dog in the background.
The Help Wildlife Near Me app was created specifically for the Blue Mountains.(ABC News: Kathleen Ferguson)

It was dubbed the “first of its kind” by Science for Wildlife because it was created specifically for a place and its people.

Landcare New South Wales CEO Turlough Guerin said the information in the app could make the difference between an animal dying or surviving a seizure.

It could be used in an emergency to give people the right tools to help wildlife and connect them with information about the agencies and groups around them, and what they can do in their daily lives. to support native animals in their area.

“It becomes a one-stop-shop for the community to know if they want to help wildlife, they can just go on and learn how to do something in their garden or sign up to participate in a project,” Dr Leigh said.

Helping animals and communities recover

Volunteer Kat Boehringer stands in the center of a shot, with burnt bush behind her.
Kat Boehringer finds healing power in helping native animals recover from fires.(ABC News: Kathleen Ferguson)

It was a resource Blue Mountains resident and Science for Wildlife volunteer Kat Boehringer would have found useful during the bushfire emergency.

Ms Boehringer said an app tailored to her community was an important step in giving residents some agency.

“You know a big fire going through, I think you feel a loss of control and it’s really empowering to know there’s something you can do on the ground to help,” she said. declared.

It is hoped that the application, if successful, can be used in all areas affected by natural disasters.

“Particularly in the context of climate change, where we are already seeing all these extreme weather events, there will be an increasing need for this kind of long-term strategic coordination,” Dr Leigh said.

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