Hospital struggles with injured animals
CURRUMBIN Wildlife Hospital is "struggling" to cope with an influx of patients with its senior vet likening the demand to a human hospital "treating patients in the halls".
The hospital is currently admitting 50 animals a day, many of them native species unable to cope with the heat and dry weather.
Hospital admissions are up by eight per cent, with koala admissions alone jumping from 27 last year to 477 this year.
Senior vet Dr Michael Pyne said while their maximum capacity was at 100 his team was flat out trying to keep up with the level of need.
"We're always struggling this time of year but with this kind of weather we're well and truly at capacity," he said.
"We're juggling patients every day, it's always a challenge during the spring.
"Our very maximum capacity is about 100 patients but once we get about 70 you're really cramming them in.
"It is kind of like having patients in the hallways in a human hospital, you're creating spaces that aren't really there."
A GoFundMe page started by the wildlife hospital to raise funds for koalas injured during devastating bushfires has already raised more than $46,000 of its $50,000 target in just two weeks.
The money will go to treating and rehabilitating the animals, with each one costing approximately $7000 to care for.
With nearly 200 extra admissions during the first round of fires in September, staff are bracing for an increase in patients over the next months as animals attempt to return to destroyed homes.
Many native species are arriving at the hospital dehydrated and struggling in the heat.
"The truth is with fires sadly not a lot survive, either they flee or they perish under the flames," Dr Pyne said.
"We get a lot more from the dry weather.
"We're getting animals in that are starving and dehydrated and that's a new thing, it's something we're not used to seeing.
"These are native Australian species, they're meant to cope with drought and dry weather. It just means it's more than usual and our native species aren't coping with it either."
His comments come as rescuers say they fear the Gold Coast's bat population could soon be faced with another starvation event just months after outlasting the first.
While flying foxes and bats were able to flee bushfires which devastated much of the state the loss of habitat and food supply could prove more harmful in the months to come.
The news comes soon after it was revealed the population was facing a food crisis throughout spring, with hundreds left emaciated, underweight and "dropping dead" from hunger.
Bats QLD rescuer Ashley Fraser said the after-effects of the bushfires on the bats were yet to be seen.
"A lot of the habitats burned were koala habitats, and bats feed on the eucalyptus blossoms as well," she said.
"When the smoke clears, so to speak, it will be the loss of habitat loss that will affect bats and it will put pressure on what food sources do remain.
"Bats that would feed in those areas are now having to push into other areas and putting further strain on what remains of the population."
There are also fears the destruction of roosts could leave microbats displaced.
"It's pretty tragic because (the bats) managed to pull through the starvation event and then this will be another blow for the population," Ms Fraser said.
The rescue group was rescuing 12-15 flying foxes a day throughout September, compared to 10-12 a week in previous years.
The starvation event also left rescuers fearful for the incoming breeding season - they now have more than a dozen orphan bats in care.
But Ms Fraser said the group was seeing less orphaned than usual.
"We have about 15 or so in care at the moment," she said.
"Initially we were having a lot that came in around September, October that were incredibly underdeveloped and a lot of those died.
"But now we're starting to see good sized babies coming through. There's definitely a lot less this year, I think for a lot of them the mothers didn't make it."
The loss of bats could prove devastating to the Gold Coast's ecosystem, with flying foxes almost entirely responsible for pollinating hardwood and eucalyptus forests.
"Ultimately flying foxes are going to help forests survive climate change, provide homes and food for koalas and other wildlife," Ms Fraser said.
"Without this keystone species, much of our beautiful forests and wildlife will suffer."
Those wanting to donate to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital's koala fund should click here.
The hospital also has a wishlist for items they need at currumbinsanctuary.com.au/hospital/wishlist.
Anyone who finds an injured or sick bat is urged to contact the Bats QLD Rescue Hotline on 0447 222 889.