The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has a lead role in responding to wildlife during emergencies. This includes wildlife affected by fire and other declared emergencies, cetacean (whale or dolphin) entanglements, strandings and vessel strike, and wildlife impacted by marine pollution events like oil-spills.
DELWP responds to known or reported wildlife issues to assess the situation and the welfare needs of the animals and to determine the type of intervention required. It maintains core resources such as trained and experienced personnel, equipment and plans to respond to and manage these types of events in a safe and coordinated way.
Individuals encountering sick, injured or orphaned wildlife should contact their local wildlife shelter. Treat wildlife with caution, especially when they are distressed or injured, as they can be dangerous. Do not handle wildlife unless advised to do so. For a list of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisations see delwp.vic.gov.au/wildlife-rehabilitation.
Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Plan
The Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Plan (VEAWP) provides principles and policy for use in emergency planning, response and recovery phases for addressing animal welfare impacts in an emergency. It defines roles and responsibilities of agencies and organisations and their operational interactions with the overarching objectives of:
- Contributing to enhanced human safety and community resilience through effective planning and management of animals in emergencies; and
- Ensuring animals are better considered and protected from suffering during and immediately following emergencies.
The plan is a joint responsibility of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and DELWP.
Under the plan, DELWP is responsible for the coordination of activities relating to wildlife during emergencies and DEDJTR is responsible for coordination of activities relating to all animals other than wildlife.
Further information on the VEAWP can be found at: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/emergencies/response/victorian-emergency-animal-welfare-plan
Volunteering during wildlife emergencies
Volunteers can play an important role in the search, rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife during emergencies. DELWP requires certain training or experience of its volunteers, as improper rescue techniques by untrained or inexperienced persons can cause further stress or injury to wildlife, or even injure the volunteer themselves. The required level of training and experience varies depending on for the role undertaken and the type of incident.
Volunteers deployed to wildlife emergencies are required to work within established emergency management structures to maintain personal safety, prevent duplication of effort and ensure the efficient and effective use of resources. For these reasons, volunteers are required to abide by established volunteer management processes which include pre-requisite training and accreditation, registration, communication and reporting procedures, as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the adoption of hazard specific safety measures.
All volunteers involved in wildlife rescue operations must remember that they are working as part of a larger team and as such, their actions may have consequences for other people. As a team member, each volunteer should look to ensure one another's welfare. Volunteers who do not do as directed by DELWP during an emergency response will be directed to leave the incident.
Those interested in volunteering to assist during wildlife emergencies should contact their local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisation to volunteer. For a list of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisations see delwp.vic.gov.au/wildlife-rehabilitation.
To ensure that a wildlife response can be put in place and wildlife rescue teams have access to the fire ground as soon as possible and to maintain their safety, DELWP, the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups have developed a set of protocols for working together in responding to wildlife affected by fire.
Wildlife rescue volunteers must:
- be familiar with these protocols
- have successfully completed the national course in Basic Wildfire Awareness or the CFA equivalent
- wear and use DELWP approved personal protective equipment (PPE).
- must only enter the fireground with the approval of the Incident Controller, irrespective of whether an individual meets the above minimum requirements .
- have a current wildlife shelter permit, foster carer authorisation or veterinary qualifications (or be accompanied by someone who does)
protocol [PDF File - 1.7 MB]
Wildlife recue protocol [MS Word Document - 1.5 MB]
Caring for wildlife
affected by fire – factsheet [PDF File - 58.8 KB]
Caring for wildlife
affected by fire – factsheet [MS Word Document - 267.1 KB]
Wildlife affected by fire
Wildlife in areas impacted by fire are often disoriented, smoke-affected, hungry and severely dehydrated, with some also suffering from burns and other injuries. Following a fire, it is expected that injured and uninjured wildlife will be seen moving through and near the fire ground. Motorists should watch out for displaced animals along roadsides.
Firegrounds are dangerous, even after the fire front has passed. Individuals, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups must not self-deploy to search for wildlife.
DELWP has specially trained Wildlife Welfare Officers who can be deployed on the fireground to lead suitably qualified and experienced wildlife rescue and rehabilitator groups when it is deemed safe to do so.
Members of the public are urged to take care if attempting to help injured or distressed animals outside of the fire area. Improper rescue techniques by an untrained or inexperienced person can cause further distress or injury to both the animal, as well as putting the rescuer at risk.
Wildlife affected by marine pollution
In the event of a major marine pollution emergency, it is likely that a large number of wildlife may be affected. DELWP is responsible for coordinating the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife that are impacted by a marine pollution emergency, with the support of agencies like Parks Victoria and Phillip Island Nature Park.
DELWP has a wildlife response plan for marine pollution emergencies which provides safe procedures and guidelines for the rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of wildlife affected by marine pollution. This plan specifies the operational structure and responsibilities in dealing with affected wildlife. The main aim of rescue operations is to safely return as many animals as possible to the wild.
Activities done under the wildlife response plan for marine pollution emergencies include the search and rescue of affected wildlife, triage, rehabilitation and post-spill monitoring of populations and habitat. Impacted wildlife is generally treated at the Phillip Island Nature Park or by other wildlife rehabilitators with relevant experience. Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups must not self-deploy to search for wildlife.
If you are interested in volunteering in oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, you are required to complete training through Philip Island Nature Park. Phillip Island Nature Park also supports a range of other volunteer activities ranging from revegetation and species monitoring to helping injured wildlife.