Although bushfires continue to ravage New South Wales and North-East Victoria, they are now at a much smaller capacity than they were a month ago.
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In the last several months, countless Australians have given their all to put an end to the raging fires, whether it was going to the firefront to push away the incoming flames, or participating in the humanitarian aid and relief efforts for both the poor and the fortunate.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, has recently called 3,000 reserve soldiers to help with the operations of firefighting and evacuation in eastern Australia. I have worked tirelessly for days, as have many others, and some even weeks.
This photograph of the 16th Regiment Emergency Support Force helping koalas recently went viral
Despite receiving well-deserved rest periods between shifts, however, several soldiers have unexpectedly chosen to trade in their off-time to continue to help the country recover from bushfires. The 16th Regiment Emergency Support Force recently became viral following the posting of a handful of photos of them cuddling and feeding koalas on their unit’s Facebook page.
ThreeTn approached Captain Garnett Hall, an Australian Army Vet recently deployed to Kangaroo Island, where he and members of the 9th Brigade were tasked with assisting the park’s Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park with a large number of wounded wildlife.
Garnett Hall is the Veterinarian and Director of the West Coast Veterinary Hospital in Perth, Australia. He became a veteran because he enjoyed science and medicine at all times. Having grown up with many animals — dogs, cats, chickens, guinea pigs, turtles, turkeys, rats, and lizards— he knew he wanted to be either a veterinarian or a human doctor.
These soldiers traded in their rest time to help care for displaced koalas in the Cleland Wildlife Park
A handful of soldiers are seen in one of the viral pictures carrying displaced koalas wrapped in blankets at the Cleland Wildlife Park, giving them shelter during feeding time. It goes without saying that it is an amazing sight to see. The post read: “16 Regiment Emergency Support Force used their periods of rest to lend a helping hand to the Cleland Wildlife Park, assisting our furry friends during feeding time and creating mountains inside the park. A great morale boost for our Adelaide Hills hard-working team.’
“I think Australia’s native animals, such as koalas, have suffered the most from the bushfires,” explained Hall. “When threatened, their instincts are to climb trees. However, when faced with a fire, this response leads to tragedy. The koalas cannot outrun those flames and, as a result, most that were in the fire-affected areas have died. Some have survived, but they have horrible burns on their hands, feet, and faces.”
In the new park grounds, the troops were also charged with constructing mountains for koalas.
The 16th Regiment’s troops were also given the task of building new on-site grounds for the koalas to play in. This included creating special koala stands, promoting their climb to the trees where they naturally hide from predators and cool off during hot days.
We told Garnett Hall which part of taking care of rescued koalas is the most difficult. He had to say this: “The most challenging part is reducing stress and pain. Many of those koalas have large burns that would be incredibly painful. On top of that, they’re afraid, their hikes have been lost, their friends are probably all dead, and they’ve been taken to a strange treatment spot. We do our best to give them enough pain relief and sedation, but it’s still a hard thing to clean and cover their burns up.
The 9th Brigade also sent their vets to Wildlife Park in Kangaroo Island to help treat the injured wildlife. In a video posted on the YouTube channel of the Australian Army, Captain Garnett Hall explains that it is a very grim picture, as the fires affect numerous wildlife, mostly koalas. They are being handled on their paws and faces for burns, and many have even sung hair.
The Facebook post went viral, attracting over 24,000 responses in just a few days, with 43,000 shares
“It’s been really enjoyable to have private soldiers who were attached to the veteran team as drivers, but I actually have been using as veterinary assistants, and it’s been so helpful to have an extra set of hands to help hold animals and to let me treat their wounds. It’s been great and they’ve absolutely loved it,” explained Captain Garnett Hall in the video.
The Facebook post has since gone viral, garnering over 24,000 responses in just a few days and 43,000 shares.
We asked Garnett Hall what one thing he would like people to know more about koalas, to which he replied: “Koalas are amazing and fascinating animals. We have pouches, like many other Australian mammals, in which we hold their babies until they are strong enough to step out on their own. I would like to invite everyone to come and see these wonderful animals themselves.