There has been widespread outrage as the Port Stephens community counts the cost of loss of wildlife following a suspicious fire which burnt out more than 82 hectares of the Mambo wetlands bushland in Salamander Bay on December 10.
Fortunately, personnel from Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service were able to save human lives and property on yet another dark day for Port Stephens residents and its firefighters, many of whom are volunteers.
News that the December 10 fire – along with two previous fires in the Mambo wetlands earlier in the week – may have been deliberately lit has further infuriated a community reeling form the loss of animal habitat, predominantly koalas.
While it is difficult to estimate the number of animals destroyed in last week’s slow moving blaze, experts from Port Stephens Koalas say that “fatalities have occurred and more are expected in coming weeks as the search and rescue teams continue to sift through the terrain”.
The group’s secretary Ron Land said the death of one koala in particular, Wuginni, has had a huge impact on not only koala lovers in Port Stephens but wildlife supporters everywhere.
“Wuginni was rescued early the next morning after the fire [Tuesday, December 11] by Lynda Simon and Noel Swain behind the library in the Salamander community centre carpark,” he said.
“She had suffered full thickness burns to all four feet, rump, elbows and face. Unfortunately her burns were deep into her muscles and she would not have survived so the decision was made to put her to sleep for humane reasons.”
Mr Land said that It was later discovered that Wuginni had been feeding a joey but the little one had also perished in the fire.
“Wuginni has been laid to rest at the Treescape Koala Hospital site, with a Grevillia planted on her burial grave.”
Fortunately, Eila – who was also rescued from the Salamander Bay fire ground – has fared a little better.
Mr Land said that Eila has badly burnt paws from climbing a tree that was still hot.
“She will be in care for a long time to grow all the skin back,” Mr Land said. “Her back baby, called Cohen, has also suffered very minor burns to his paws and is doing exceptionally well. His little feet are being treated but he should be right to go very soon.”
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