Nigel Williamson has been rescuing companion animals and wildlife from precarious situations for nearly 25 years. Faced with trying to rescue of hundreds of animals injured and dying from the Black Saturday bushfires, he needed every ounce of this experience and more.
Hands-on at the coal face, Nigel and his volunteer team from Nigel’s Rescue Service spent three months rescuing wildlife and distributing food and supplies to the people and animals throughout the Gippsland, Kinglake and Marysville areas.
For months, Nigel and his volunteers played an integral role in rescuing hundreds of animals from the bushfire affected areas. Depending on the extent of the injuries, retrieving an injured animal for treatment can be difficult, made even worse by a disaster the scale of Black Saturday.
The bushfires on 7 February 2009, which became known as Black Saturday, were Australia’s worst ever. The bushfires across the state of Victoria resulted in 173 deaths and injuries to more than 500 people. With temperatures in the high 40s (degrees Celsius) and winds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, the ferocity, speed and power of the bushfires defied belief. In a chaotic and terrifying day, the fires destroyed more than 2,200 houses and a total of 3,500 buildings. Whole towns were annihilated, a total of 78 individual townships were affected and 7,500 people were left homeless.
On the animal front, it was estimated thousands of domestic animals as well as millions of unique and endangered native animals perished as the fires engulfed hundreds of thousands of hectares of land.
Of those animals that did survive, time was critical. Nigel and his team of volunteers were just one of a number of groups working tirelessly around the clock to save these animals. Hundreds of them were retrieved from the bushfires, triaged and sent onto wildlife shelters for rehabilitation.
After three months and still seeing an overwhelming need for help, Nigel and his wife Sharon, formally began the not-for-profit organisation Australian Animal Rescue in April 2009.
Outfitting Australian Animal Rescue volunteers with bushfire-safe gear is now our first Black Saturday project, and aptly it’s named Project Bushfire Readiness.
So who are Australian Animal Rescue and what do they stand for?
Australian Animal Rescue specialises in both domestic animal and wildlife rescue and provides a 24-hour animal rescue and information service. Their mission is to provide direct care, sanctuary, veterinary, wildlife hospital, triage, and other care services to animals in need.
They provide short-term care for all animals in need of protection, including those animals who are sick, injured, stray, orphaned, abandoned and neglected or those who’ve suffered from mistreatment or cruelty.
Their stated purpose is to:
• aid in the recovery of sick or injured native wildlife and other animals
• relocate rehabilitated animals into suitable permanent homes or, in the case of wildlife, to release the rehabilitated animals into a suitable bushland environment
• maintain a skilled and specialised 24-hour animal emergency service within Victoria
• help other animal shelters by sharing volunteers, equipment, information and supplies whenever possible
• provide and maintain an education program based on the principles of animal welfare, in addition to a conservation program, both directed towards a variety of groups
• develop a gift fund aimed specifically at raising money from gifts and donations in order to fund equipment, supplies and veterinary costs
• build a specialist emergency and triage animal hospital in Devon Meadows