Sapphire Coast wildlife group suspends feed drops as donations fall

One of about 220 water stations set up to quench thirsty critters after long drought and catastrophic bushfires.

One of about 220 water stations set up to quench thirsty critters after long drought and catastrophic bushfires.

Since January, volunteer group Eden Wildlife Stations has been providing and distributing food and water to wildlife suffering the impact of the devastating and unprecedented bushfires.

However, the group has suspended its efforts as the impacts from COVID-19 are felt throughout the community - in particular the fall in donations.

Jon Christopher was instrumental in forming and coordinating the Eden group in the southern section of the Bega Valley Shire, inspired by similar groups further north in the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla and with their support.

"Due to the diminishing donations with the current health concerns we have decided to suspend distributing feed for our friends out in the bush. This decision has been a very one hard for us," Mr Christopher said.

The scale of destruction to habitat has been immense, experts said more than one billion animals were likely killed in Australian bushfires this season.

Despite normal protocol being not to feed wildlife, experts advised these were extraordinary circumstances and food drops could help save macropods like the rock wallaby.

Recent rains and sprouting vegetation created an illusion of abundance, but there is nowhere near enough feed in many areas of blackened bush, especially where the fires destroyed any fruiting plants, fungi and insect life which would ordinarily provide feed for native wildlife.

Donations from the community were collected at drop off points at local supermarkets and shops and volunteers then distributed the food, mostly fruit, vegetables and pellets, to areas which had been identified as particularly impacted by the fires.

"As soon as the coronavirus pandemic hit, the donations started diminishing and volunteers dropped off. The writing was on the wall," Mr Christopher said.

The group covered many areas, from Eden out to Pericoe, Towamba Valley, Kiah, south of Wonboyn, towards Pambula, Myrtle Mountain, Timbillica - dropping roughly a tonne of feed a week, sometimes more.

Mitre 10 aided the cause providing water stations made from drain pipes, which volunteers then topped up in areas where animals and birds were searching for food and drink. Coolfreight delivered produce, Anderson's Cranes provided forklifts for offloading and other equipment. Wollongong Network Helping South Coast Wildlife brought down many trailer loads of feed at the height of the group's activity.

Individuals are continuing to drop donations in supermarket collection trolleys at their own expense, these donations are still being used for rehabilitation of injured animals.

Mr Christopher is going to ask volunteers to bring the water stations back in to clean and store them, ready for further use as needed - there is currently no leaf cover, with winds and dry conditions the ground is drying very quickly again.

"It was very good for people's mental health after the fires to be able to help wildlife - everyone was working together," Mr Christopher said.

"We need to be encouraging people to continue discussing past management practices, the broader issues, to start taking more action and figure out how to do it better," Mr Christopher said.