Fires, floods, now CV19, please save our sanctuary

We survived fires, then floods. Now we are looking down the barrel of Coronavirus.

We have entered yet another "alternate reality". It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure our animals and their home, the walkabout wildlife sanctuary, survive the economic and social disaster of Coronavirus-19. Only a few weeks ago we thought we had survived the biggest danger nature could throw at us, a million hectares of fire, and our priority was preparing for future Summers' mega-fire seasons. Now we are again focussed on our animals' immediate survival. Our income this year is projected to be less than 20% of the minimum our animals need to get through this. This is what it is going to take... 

Essential animal care costs:

These include food, medicines, bedding, cleaning, hygiene, equipment, heating, cooling, predator-proofing, enclosure maintenance and insurances*. Including this last item is painful, as almost all of our losses in the last year were excluded under our insurance, but it would be irresponsible for us to do what we do without insurance.

What the animals need to survive the next few months:

Each animal needs an average of $7 per day to cover all costs (food and non-food).
The food costs are different for different species and individuals e.g.
$3 per day for specialised milk formula and supplements for 1 orphan joey
$13 per day to collect gum leaves for 1 koala
$20 per fortnight for food for 1 python
$1 per day for supplementary food for 1 free-ranging (free-grazing) kangaroo

Our 200 in-care animals need
$1,400 for 1 day, or
$9,800 for 1 week, or
$127,400 for 3 months, or
$254,800 for 6 months, or
$509,600 for 12 months

What the animals don't need in these extraordinary times:

The animals do not need the costs of the sanctuary's education and reestablishment programs. We're not expecting there will be much opportunity for these as everyone focuses on their own survival, just as we are battling to save our sanctuary. We plan to keep the gates open to our community so that people can spend time with the animals and in their bush home. This will be good for people and for the animals, and will ensure that the sanctuary survives as a permanent home for these animals and other wildlife.

In "normal" times the sanctuary needs $960,000 turnover each year to cover "costs of sales" and "operating costs", with zero profit. $510,000 of this is needed to care for the in-care animals. $450,000 is needed to run the sanctuary's education and species reestablishment programs, which together fulfill our purpose of "Conservation through Education" and "Species Rewilding" and "Habitat Protection", and generate the income needed to cover the animals' care.

Our target is only to cover the animals' care needs. We're not expecting there will be much opportunity for running the other programs as everyone focuses on their own survival, just as we are battling to save our sanctuary.

We do plan to keep the gates open to our community for as long as our government will allow us to do so, so our community can visit the sanctuary. This will be good for people and for the animals, and will ensure that the sanctuary survives as a permanent home for these animals and other wildlife.

Why our animals need your help now:

For 14 years, our sanctuary has been self-sustaining from visitor tickets, gift shop sales, educational workshops, and overnight and residential programs. Then the world changed and reality shifted.

In November and December, we had to close for 5 weeks to evacuate hundreds of in-care and wild animals, our of the path of the fires, then we worked day and night to shore up the sanctuary's defences as a million hectares of fire burned 5km from us. Future business also cancelled as international tour groups needed certainty for their bookings. We lost 8% of our annual income.

In January, scores of volunteers who were coming to help us with the recovery were trapped in China, and pre-booked Chinese groups cancelled. We lost another 15% of annual income.

In February, just as we were starting to get back to normal, massive storms hit and we had to close our sanctuary to make it safe for animals and people. We lost a further 5% of annual income.

In March we were reeling but still standing, when Australia went into lockdown against COVID-19 and more than 50% of pre-booked annual income cancelled in 3 days.


March 2020, saving our sanctuary from coronavirus:

We have entered yet another "alternate reality".

Right now, for our animals' sake, it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure they and their home, the walkabout wildlife sanctuary, survive the economic and social disaster of Coronavirus-19. So, please, only donate and share our gofundme page if you are happy for us to spend the money on this.

Financial position after the fires (and before coronavirus):

To date, our costs (excluding items and time donated by our wonderful community) of the 2019 animal evacuation, our sanctuary being closed without income for 5 weeks, bringing our animals home safely, taking in animals displaced from the fire grounds, and making our land fire-safer, have totalled close to $100,000.

We were hoping to raise around $35,000 towards these costs, and you gave us $89,000 including direct donations that did not go through gofundme. Thank you! We could not have got through this without you.

Our mid-January update:

We've survived. Please help us to make our wildlife sanctuary a safe haven for animals that have lost their wild homes in these megafires. "Our" mega-fire, burning only 5km from us, has already consumed eight hundred thousand hectares of wild habitat. It has been burning since September, we still have 3 months of summer heatwaves to go, and it is growing every day. We must save what's left. Our sanctuary is 180 acres of natural bush. It is home to more than 200 animals in long term care, as well as the thousands of wild animals that have always lived here, safe and free and wild. With so much wild habitat burned and burning, our sanctuary is one of the few remaining places where rescued wild wildlife can be wild. Please help us! The big work is just beginning. With so little left, we must do whatever is humanly and super-humanly possible to save wild habitat. We may not be able to stop these mega-fires once they take hold, but where we can save the bush, we must!  At Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, our priority now is to make our 180 acres of bush as fire safe as we can. We must make sure the koalas and wombats and other animals entrusted to our care can be safe in their sanctuary home in this new reality of super-charged mega-fires. We must make sure we protect this wild habitat so we can take in other displaced animals needing a wild life. Caring for all remaining wild bush is now absolutely imperative. Click to our Facebook Page or our Website for updates and more info on what we do. Our animals:  Koalas, Tasmanian Devils, Bilbies, Dingoes, Possums, Wallabies, Kangaroos, Owls, Kookaburras, Tawnies, Gliders, Bandicoots, Flying Foxes, Cockatoos, Snakes, Kestrels, Lizards, Turtles, Frogs, Echidnas, Quolls, Potoroos, Emus, Goannas, Bettongs, even ancient native bee hives, and Waffles the pig and his farmyard friends. What we have already done: In November the fire was expected to reach our wildlife sanctuary in 3 to 10 days. With so many animals depending on us, we put out a call for help. Within hours, with the help of our amazing local community, we began moving animals out and to safety. Within days, we had nearly 300 in-care and wild animals out of the path of the fire. Then, despite the choking smoke, our community formed a volunteer fire brigade and moved on site. The brigade worked day and night to create safer zones for wildlife and to protect the sanctuary from the fires so that the animals would have a home to come back to. After 5 weeks we finally got the call. The fire containment lines were holding. Any threat, now, should be weeks rather than days away.  The news came just in time. Our animals were getting increasingly stressed in temporary care, although they were wonderfully looked after. They needed to be home. So during the week before Christmas, we brought them home. What we need to spend money on now: ...Working with our local wildlife rescuers to install short and long term care, and soft-release stations within the sanctuary for rescued wildlife now homeless after the fires.  ...Fire-resistant water tanks (we’re not on town water, we must store enough on site to fight these fires, we can’t afford to run out of water!) ...Permanent installations of pipes and pumps and generators. ...Making and maintaining safer zones for wild wildlife. ...Building fire-breaks and tracks so we can reach habitat for wild wildlife to protect it.  ...Having all the specialised equipment on hand to safely evacuate large numbers of stress-prone, and complicated to catch and transport, animals (a last resort but we must be ready in case there are no other options). What we will keep doing: ...Caring for our animals. ...Working with our local Aboriginal fire people and land care groups to restore habitat with seed harvesting and tree planting and cultural burning, especially important as our Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary is a heritage listed Aboriginal landscape. What we will do if we collect enough donations: ...Expand and irrigate our koala feed tree plantation. …Build a fire-proof shelter so animals can be protected on site without the need to put them through the stress and danger of evacuation. ...Extend the sanctuary’s fox-/dog-/cat-proof fence from 80 acres to the full 180 acres. Our dream: To buy our leased Crown Land (half our land is leased, not owned) so we can make sure the government never sells it off to be cleared for ‘development’, and buy the 220 acres of quarry-owned land next door to us with it’s abandoned water dams, and protect all of it for wildlife and for rehabilitation. Money already spent:  Thank you to our community who has helped us with donations and boots on the ground! This is what we have been spending our own and donor money on. Moving 300 animals to safety; Veterinary costs for animals affected by the heat and smoke and fear of evacuation; Special modified animal transport bags and boxes; Fire fighting equipment; People protection equipment; Food for 300 animals, 65 species, carnivores, insectivores, specialised herbivores; Fuel to get out to and support our 28 off-site carers spread across a 400km radius; Bringing the animals home; All of our day-to-day bills while we had no income for 5 weeks (we had to close the sanctuary, so we received no visitor entry fees which is our animals’ only source of income). What things cost: …$15 for one large kangaroo transport bag. …$30 for sedation to evacuate one emu safely. ...$850 for one fire pump. ...$165 for one fire hose. …$2,000 for one permanent enclosure for injured or displaced animals. ...$6,500 for one mobile water trailer. ...$15,000 for a small enough strong enough vehicle to pull a water trailer around the sanctuary tracks. ...$18,000 for a eucalyptus plantation for koala feed and a sprinkler system. ...$20,000 for a water bore so we don’t run out of water when fighting fires. ...$22,000 for a full backup generator so we don’t lose power and communications in a fire. ...$30,000 to hire earth moving equipment to push fire breaks around the sanctuary. ...$38,000 for one steel water tank (without installation or plumbing). …$120,000 to build a 3m high walled zone to protect animals from a firefront. …$500,000 to extend the 80 acres of fox-/dog-proofing to 180 acres to keep native wildlife safe. …$TBC to purchase the land next door to us to expand the sanctuary to 400 acres. Who we are and how we will get the money to where it is needed for the animals: My name is Tassin and I am one of the Trustees for the Walkabout Wildlife Conservation Foundation charged with protecting the natural and cultural environment of Calga. My husband Gerald is the Director of Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, a privately owned and non-funded NGO wildlife sanctuary in Calga. With the Walkabout team and our community's support and income only from guest entry fees and our education programs, plus our own money when we have it, we look after more than 200 animals that need long term care, and 180 acres of natural bush alive with wild wildlife. All donations will go into the Foundation's bank account, so we can draw down to pay outstanding bills from the evacuation and return of our animals, and for strengthening the fire defences for our animal's sanctuary home.  Click here for Facebook Updates

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Tassin Barnard

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