New Orleans native rescues animals from Australian fires, says there’s a long road to recovery

Updated: Jan. 21, 2020 at 8:18 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A New Orleans native who now lives in Australia said he's working around the clock to rescue animals in the face of the fires.

The fires in Australia are largely contained now, but the devastation is far from over.

"We're still in the middle of what's happening here. The fire was over a week ago now, but the aftermath is still there. The fire's still alive in the gullies around us," John Creighton, a wombat rescuer said.

Creighton was born and raised in New Orleans, but lives in Bundanoon, saving wombats, who, among other animals, are fighting for their lives now.

"That is what we're focusing on right now, is to get feed and water, and water stations to the animals. We have contraptions, it's like pipes that have feeders at the end of it, and we're putting those in the bush for the animals and we're bringing up feed," Creighton said.

An estimated one billion animals died from the fires so far.

Some veterinarians say the habitat and species loss could throw the ecosystem out of balance.

"We have the environmental health that's suffering, because we have this wildfire, and then that is affecting the wildlife health, and then it's going to affect the human health eventually as well," LSU Health Veterinarian Leslie Birke said.

She said those who did successfully flee the fires are highly vulnerable to predators.

"Then, the invasive predators will come and start picking off some of these species, because they actually go to the edges of those events and start picking off those animals that are fleeing from the fire," Birke said.

Creighton said people are bringing out food for the animals, because survivors are struggling to find their own.

"The problem is that they're coming out of the ground now and there's nothing for them. The areas that i'm going into is black horizons. Ash on the ground, the trees are completely burnt out. The birds really have no place to go," Creighton said.

Since there are many islands, animals could also face the threat of diseases when rescued from their environment.

"If you have koalas that are all on an island, and you do your best to rescue those, and you take them out of that area and you bring them to another place of rescue with other koalas that have been in other areas, you could be bringing in diseases that these other koalas are naive to," Birke said.

Creighton said there will be a long road to recovery.

"People are just devastated by the loss of so much and everything around them, and when we start to see the animals come back and the birds come back, and new shoots in the ground and in the trees, I think that's a metaphor for what the country's going to have to do as well," Creighton said.

Creighton said they are still in rescue mode right now, and said he almost lost his own home to the fires.

Birke said the animals may now encroach on human areas with habitat loss, which could lead to the potential of spreading disease, or more frequent animal attacks.

She said the impacts from the fires are devastating, and entire species are expected to go extinct.

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