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
Cheryl Gay Cheryl Gay 12:25 pm 25 Jan 20

That is just sadness piled on sadness. So sorry.

Samia Goudie Samia Goudie 12:20 pm 25 Jan 20

Unbelievable levels of loss and so

Much sadness

No words to offer except love and the hope of recovery

The loss fir the Americans families is awful never to get their bodies even how heartbreaking

I hope they feel the love of our country for their sacrifice

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 12:16 pm 25 Jan 20

He also has a go fund me cause and if you go to the sanctuary Facebook page, there is a post with direct debit details if you don’t want a percentage of donations going to Gofund Me Corporations

John Moulis John Moulis 12:14 pm 25 Jan 20

On the Channel 7 news last night they called it the worst summer in Australian history. I wouldn't disagree with that.

Leeanne Williams Leeanne Williams 12:01 pm 25 Jan 20

What a devastating event. I can't even begin to comprehend how this must feel. It is making me feel such great sorrow for the whole event. Both the loss of lives and aircraft and the unthinkable destruction of James home and sanctuary😟😟

Emily Stewart-Reed Emily Stewart-Reed 12:01 pm 25 Jan 20

ifaw this sanctuary could really do with your help!

Jade Barges Jade Barges 11:59 am 25 Jan 20

Heartbroken for you 🇦🇺❤️

Georgina Papoutsi Georgina Papoutsi 11:59 am 25 Jan 20

Just tragic

Christine Evans Christine Evans 11:53 am 25 Jan 20

This bushfire season just gets worse and worse 😢😢

Craig Wood Craig Wood 11:51 am 25 Jan 20

That is really sad

Helen Mackenzie Helen Mackenzie 11:50 am 25 Jan 20

So horribly sad

Robyn Plany Robyn Plany 11:46 am 25 Jan 20

trying to save wildlife and now has lost every thing this is so very sad xx

Shuning Ma Shuning Ma 11:44 am 25 Jan 20

So heartbreaking 😭😭

Robyn Fife Robyn Fife 11:40 am 25 Jan 20

Tressa D. Bush doubly sad that all the Koalas they were fighting to protect also perished ....

OzzieCool OzzieCool 11:33 am 25 Jan 20

Heartbreaking, there are no words. Big love you all xx

Julia Dunn Julia Dunn 11:28 am 25 Jan 20

Truely heartbreaking

Lynton Hurt Lynton Hurt 11:25 am 25 Jan 20

That’s tragic 😞

Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 11:23 am 25 Jan 20

Too much sadness!

Caitlan Hatley Caitlan Hatley 11:22 am 25 Jan 20

What a tragic series of events 😢

Donna Harvey Donna Harvey 11:17 am 25 Jan 20

Erin Gillan Paige Scarce this is soooo horrible 😭

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