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Veterinary response to fire impacted wildlife: decision making for better wildlife health and welfare outcomes, from triage to release
VBB presents Dr Leanne Wicker from Zoos Victoria.

Over the summer of 2019/2020 the world watched as Australians lived through bushfires unprecedented in both their extent and intensity.

Recognising the need for a coordinated approach to wildlife health and welfare, Zoos Victoria partnered with DELWP and worked alongside the broader wildlife care community to respond to wild animals which were injured, orphaned or displaced as a result of the fires. Veterinary teams from Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo collaborated with DELWP to establish the state’s wildlife triage units, working with experienced wildlife veterinarians from around Australia and providing training to a broader range of veterinarians and veterinary nurses from the AVA, RSPCA, VBB and other partners to ensure triage units remained staffed and supported until the immediate threat had passed. While the devastation of ‘Black Summer’ will be felt for many years, the massive veterinary response to fire impacted wildlife – from acute emergency presentation, followed by intensive veterinary care and the longer period of rehabilitation right through to health assessment following release to the wild – has provided an immense learning opportunity for wildlife veterinarians. Historical triage and treatment protocols have been reviewed, a better understanding of the long term prognosis of burn related injuries has been gained, and we have developed a deeper understanding of the rehabilitation practices which result in increased survival and improved welfare following release to the wild.

This talk will present many of these learnings, providing participants with an updated approach to the veterinary care of fire affected wildlife. We will also explore some of the unique factors which impact veterinary decision making around euthanasia, treatment, housing and care when our patients are wild animals, and our aim is to see them not just survive, but thrive, after release.


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