A number of animals were evacuated from the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve last week to escape the Orroral Valley fire which was continuing to threaten the area (as at 4 February).

In a media release on Thursday 30 January, ACT Minister for the Environment Mick Gentleman, said animals will remain at their relocated facilities until conditions allow for their safe return.

“Bushfire preparations are now being undertaken at Tidbinbilla to make the area safer for remaining animals. This includes fuel reduction burns, installation of containment lines, removal of vegetation around key enclosures and the installation of sprinkler systems in holding areas,” he said.

Twenty-six endangered eastern bettongs, which are part of Tidbinbilla’s threatened species recovery program, were evacuated by Australian Defence Force (ADF) aircraft to secure facilities at Mt Rothwell, Victoria.

Other animals including two critically endangered southern brush-tailed rock-wallabies and two yellow-footed rock wallabies, which require ongoing care, were being transferred to Taronga Zoo, with additional brush-tailed rock wallabies to be relocated from Tidbinbilla to Mt Rothwell by ADF aircraft.

A small population of critical breeding Northern Corrobboree Frogs and Tidbinbilla’s captive koalas have also been transferred to purpose-built facilities at the Australian National University (ANU). This follows the successful relocation of seven platypus from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to Taronga Zoo at the end of December.

The ANU is also caring for a number of other koalas displaced and injured by Australia’s bushfire crisis. ANU researcher Dr Karen Ford, who is an expert in koala nutrition, is running the “5-star koala hotel” on campus in Canberra.

“We have 11 koalas at ANU that have come in from the various fire grounds in the region,” Dr Ford said. “They just keep arriving. There is nowhere else that has the facilities to hold these animals or this many at the moment.

“There are a couple with burn injuries and the rest have come from completely burnt habitat and they are quite skinny.”

The researcher has warned people not to catch, feed, water or care for koalas but to contact local wildlife agencies if they have concerns or come in contact with them.

“You need to know something about koalas to feed them, otherwise you can unintentionally starve them,” Dr Ford said. “Koalas also don’t drink a lot of water and if a koala takes water they may be stressed. If you are not aware of their habits you might not even realise that you are not feeding them appropriately.”

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