12 January 2020

Thirst-quenching relief for a little fella found near Nerriga

| Michael Weaver
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Queanbeyan SES volunteer Brent Hunter

Queanbeyan SES volunteer Brent Hunter gives his furry mate a drink. Photo: Adam Hingston, Queanbeyan SES.

While the current bushfires have had a devastating impact on all creatures great and small, one great creature has gotten by with the help of a friend from Queanbeyan State Emergency Service (SES).

The teams in orange from the SES have been twisting themselves through fire grounds since the start of December. As the decade drew to a close, Queanbeyan SES operations officer Brent Hunter and deputy unit commander Adam Hingston had just alerted a household at Nerriga that a fire front was approaching.

“We were tasked with delivering lunches to some firefighters and were driving down Nerriga Road [north-east of Braidwood],” Brent told Region Media.

“As we began to drive down the road, a fire started to jump across Nerriga Road behind us, back towards Braidwood. We delivered some lunches to the only crews we could find and we were driving through some thick smoke and we located the little fella.

“He was in the middle of the road. We jumped out, there was thick smoke, it was really hot and the koala looked like he was pretty upset. I grabbed my jacket and wrapped him up and grabbed him around the back of his shoulders so he couldn’t claw me as he had massive claws on him. When he was in the car, and he just spun around and latched on to my finger as hard as he could and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced with an animal.

“The fire was quickly approaching and we couldn’t leave him there, he wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

Brent and Adam drove the koala a few kilometres to safe ground.

“The koala looked ok. He was puffing and panting and looked like he’d been through a lot, but he didn’t look like he was injured so we took him down the road where the fire hadn’t impacted and allowed him to get back into his natural habitat as best we could.

“We gave him a little bit of water and he drank that straight away. We left some water with him so he could keep sipping away, as we had to keep moving. As long as he was safe, that was all that mattered,” Brent said.

Brent, whose day job is with the Australian Public Service is also a member of the Ridgeway Rural Fire Brigade which has had a truck on a fire ground every day since the North Black Range fire began near Braidwood at the end of November.

The thirsty koala

The thirsty koala found by Queanbeyan SES volunteers near Nerriga. Photo: Queanbeyan SES.

He said the SES members have also been supporting their mates in yellow in the Rural Fire Service day-in, day-out.

“While we’re not out there fighting fires, the SES support function is so critical to what they’re doing and they return this service to us when we’re flooding,” said Brent. “If the RFS is in charge, we’re helping. If the SES is in charge, they’re helping. We all just flick a switch and get on with it.”

Brent said they have “seen a lot of wildlife” since the bushfire season began.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of koalas and possums. We haven’t seen any snakes thankfully but hopefully, they’ve been getting out ahead of the fires.

“I didn’t realise we had so many koalas in the areas down here because you never really see them, they just keep to themselves. You see possums and wombats all the time – the poor possums are stuck in the trees and don’t know what to do.

“It’s been pretty heartbreaking as the wildlife doesn’t stand a chance in some of these areas. They just don’t have the same context of what is happening, and they don’t react the same way we do. A lot of animals aren’t making it just because they view the world a bit differently to how we do.”

To report sick or injured wildlife visit WIRES.

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