Crashed tanker was protecting Two Thumbs koala sanctuary, now destroyed by blaze

Genevieve Jacobs 25 January 2020 47
James Fitzgerald

James Fitzgerald in his wildlife sanctuaries at Peak View. Photo: NSW Koala Country.

It’s been revealed that the large air tanker which went down Thursday afternoon with the loss of all those aboard was protecting the Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust Koala Sanctuary in the Peak View district near Jerangle.

The Two Thumbs Sanctuary’s sheds, houses, machinery and all the koalas in its care were also destroyed in the blaze.

Snowy Mountains Wildlife Rescue says they are deeply distressed by the loss of the air tanker and the three American crew who were killed while on firefighting duties with the RFS.

The plane had deployed from the Richmond RAAF base with a load of fire retardant and was headed for the Good Good fire ground north-east of Cooma.

Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust is a trio of koala sanctuaries and a rehabilitation centre two hours south of Canberra established by James Fitzgerald. The sanctuaries comprised Hammer’s Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Kalandan Wildlife Sanctuary and Irwin’s Corner Wildlife Sanctuary.

The sanctuaries also provided enclosures and other facilities for wildlife rehabilitation and a base for scientific research. Local wildlife rescue groups including Wildcare NSW, LAOKO (Looking After Our Kosciuszko Orphans) and NARG (Native Animal Rescue Group) have used the sanctuaries as a safe release site.

They are also home to a number of other threatened species, including greater gliders, squirrel gliders, Rosenberg’s goanna and the quoll.

The surrounding area was the subject of a research project by the Australian National University. It confirmed that a healthy population of koalas in the Tinderries were eating bark from Eucalyptus mannifera trees to access sodium, behaviour unique to the region.

Volunteer organisations including LAOKO have offered their full support to build another koala enclosure and continue the work of rescuing, treating and bringing into care any koalas found in the Peak View and Numeralla area. Teams of koala specialists and international disaster search and rescue and arborists are also providing support.

The feeding program in the area has been suspended due to the dangerous and active fire activity there at the moment.

The Kalandan sanctuary

The Kalandan sanctuary had already been hit heavily in the January 4 fires. Photo: Facebook.

Prior to Thursday’s blaze, the area had already been heavily impacted by fire. A GoFundme page appeal launched by James’s niece Clare Henderson for the Wildlife Trust said that Mr Fitzgerald spent about five weeks before Christmas assisting the Majors Creek Wombat Refuge to prepare for the bushfires, evacuating wombats from the sanctuary and rescuing native animals from the bushfires around the Braidwood area, including a number of koalas from Nerriga.

A number of those koalas were in his care at Two Thumbs.

As a long term RFS volunteer, Mr Fitzgerald fought the Good Good bushfire that directly threatened his home and the sanctuaries on 4 January. But when fire flared again Thursday, his home and all of his animal enclosures were destroyed.

“We are devastated. I am thanking you all from the bottom of my heart for the love and support James has received. He has lost his entire life’s work and now more than ever he needs our help to rebuild so he can get back to caring for the animals that he loves so dearly,” Ms Henderson said.

Donations can also be made directly to the Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust: BSB 062 523 Account 1024 7675.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on About Regional.

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47 Responses to Crashed tanker was protecting Two Thumbs koala sanctuary, now destroyed by blaze
Ella Lloyd Ella Lloyd 5:56 pm 28 Jan 20

They tried their best to lrotect protect tge the wildlife too! Best hse use indigenous knowledge via indigenous rangers to conduct regulare regulate and frquent frequent cultural burns around and on the premises. Known to havw have worked for 70,000 years !!!!!

Alyson Armitage Alyson Armitage 10:23 pm 26 Jan 20

That is so sad

Jennifer Chalmers Jennifer Chalmers 12:58 pm 26 Jan 20

Such a tragedy.

Ulpu Niemi Ulpu Niemi 9:45 am 26 Jan 20

Tragedy upon tragedy in this battle. 😢

Alison Crawley Alison Crawley 8:01 am 26 Jan 20

Please consider a donation to this refuge - it will be used for the good of the wildlife. Thankyou.

Nadia Nardini Nadia Nardini 9:12 pm 25 Jan 20

Heartbreaking 😭😔😔😔

Lani Nicholson Lani Nicholson 8:14 pm 25 Jan 20

As if it wasn’t sad enough already 😢😢😢😢

Deborah Field Deborah Field 7:27 pm 25 Jan 20

Tragedy on tragedy... 😭

Agnes Kumar Agnes Kumar 7:22 pm 25 Jan 20

Could things get any worse?

Donna McConnell Donna McConnell 6:58 pm 25 Jan 20

Omg that's so sad. RIP

Paula Williams Paula Williams 6:07 pm 25 Jan 20

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to make a financial donation to a charity - please seriously consider supporting James and his sanctuary. A more gentle wildlife guardian you could not meet.

    Karyn Richardson Karyn Richardson 9:30 pm 26 Jan 20

    Paula Williams is there a website or charity link fir James and his sanctuary?

Catherine Durney Catherine Durney 5:55 pm 25 Jan 20

Heartbreaking. :'(

Sam K-m Sam K-m 3:48 pm 25 Jan 20


David Robertson David Robertson 3:46 pm 25 Jan 20

Tragedy is even further compounded 💔

Bryce Wilson Bryce Wilson 2:26 pm 25 Jan 20

Such a good man doing great stuff ...

Elisabeth Wise Elisabeth Wise 2:06 pm 25 Jan 20

Seems to be never ending, so sad!

Erin Hernandez Erin Hernandez 2:01 pm 25 Jan 20

Can we please catch a break - far out 😢 Rest In Peace furry friends x

Donna Maxine Donna Maxine 1:49 pm 25 Jan 20

Thats heartbreaking 😭😭😭

Ulla KL Ulla KL 1:34 pm 25 Jan 20

This is so sad ... I just have no words.

Vanessa Campbell Vanessa Campbell 1:17 pm 25 Jan 20

Beyond sad. Tragic. This summer just gets worse and worse.

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