HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! - By Sonja Elwood, Founder of Sydney Wildlife Rescue

Greetings and happy birthday to all of Sydney Wildlife’s wonderful volunteers and all our amazing wildlife vets and supporters!

It was 24 years ago this month that Sydney Wildlife began operations and what an incredible time it is to be celebrating our birthday!

Why? Because last week saw a little bit of history in the making for the volunteer wildlife rehabilitation sector in NSW and Sydney Wildlife’s volunteers were amongst those that made a more than significant contribution to this!

This week the Nature Conservation Council held their biennial Bushfire Conference and as Sydney Wildlife’s representative on the NSW Wildlife Council (NWC) I had the privilege of presenting our organisation’s and sector’s outstanding efforts to assist wildlife during the Black Summer fires 2019-2020 and the needs of our sector looking to the future.

In December 2019, during the fires, a huge project undertaken by our wonderful members Joan Reid and Lynleigh Greig came off the production line.  I am, of course, talking about our mobile wildlife clinic which was immediately deployed, with a full complement of experienced local wildlife vets and volunteers, to assist our sister groups and carers on the south coast and Blue Mountains. Simultaneously on behalf of the NWC, I engaged international animal disaster assistance who continued this work establishing triage centres across the south coast.

Behind the scenes during these fires our volunteers, Margaret Woods and Sarah Hylton and others, worked extremely hard gathering and distributing resources to fellow wildlife carers and organisations besieged by fire, not only in NSW but throughout the nation, even commandeering a plane to Kangaroo Island to get through vital supplies. At the same time,  volunteer Anne Jackson was also gathering and distributing vital medical supplies through her groundbreaking Medi-Divert program that collects unwanted hospital medical supplies.

In the latter part of last week I represented Sydney Wildlife as an exec on the NWC at a two day workshop held at the State Emergency Response Headquarters with senior members of the Rural Fire Service, the Dept. of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment, Dept. Primary Industries and leading wildlife vets looking at how wildlife might be included in future emergency responses and testing an emergency app (developed by yet another member Imogen Scott of Worldwide Veterinary Services).

And finally, last week also saw the first volunteer wildlife carer and advocate, Lorraine Vass, invested into the Order of Australia for her contributions to conservation over the past three decades and in particular for services to koalas (Friends of the Koala) and her work with the NWC.

On top of this, what a year we have just experienced with the covid-19 pandemic coming so quickly on the heels of the Black Summer fires!

As an organisation we’ve had to adapt our office procedures, data collection and rescue coordination to remote based online systems. We’ve also had to transform our basic and refresher training courses to online as opposed to face to face. These have been enormous projects undertaken by yet more teams of our amazing volunteers. Similarly, our fundraisers and community educators have also had to adapt to trying to perform whilst safely negotiating covid-19 restrictions.

We’ve also spearheaded and participated in rebuild programs for volunteers and sister groups in southern NSW whose properties and wildlife infrastructure has been destroyed by fire. We have been kindly assisted in these works by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

And, of course, throughout the pandemic ALL our amazing volunteers have continued their amazing rescue efforts whilst having to safely negotiate covid-19 restrictions.

To all those that have worked so hard on all of these projects and our entire membership adapting so very quickly to this - I cannot express how proud and grateful I am to all of you!

Your commitment, innovation, passion, kindness, resilience and straight out hard work over the last 24 years and in the face of such huge challenges in the past 18 months for our wildlife and our organisation and to assist our fellow volunteers in other organisations is simply outstanding, inspiring and humbling!

Happy birthday beautiful people - take a moment to pat yourselves on the back and do something nice for yourself - you so deserve it️!

Sonja Elwood


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