Australia’s massive wildfires, exacerbated by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought, have burned at least 27 million acres of forest and brushland. Estimates of animals killed range in the hundreds of millions, and the loss of habitat has meant far more animals are singed and starving. Networks of wildlife rescuers and volunteer caregivers across Australia are scrambling to rescue kangaroos, koalas, lizards, and large birds, keeping them at makeshift emergency shelters.
Wildlife caregiver Rosemary Austen adjusts a sedated fire-burnt kangaroo after a visit to the veterinarian in Queanbeyan. Austen has rescued hundreds of kangaroos for recovery in the Possumwood Wildlife recovery center, which she runs. Many of the kangaroos can barely walk because of severe burns on their feet.
Animal rescuer Marcus Fillinger carries a burned kangaroo in Peak View. The dart gun specialist had tranquilized the wounded animal near a fire-scorched koala reserve for transport to the Possumwood Wildlife recovery center.
Left: Veterinarians and nurses operate on a kangaroo at the Southern Cross Wildlife Care hospital near Braidwood. Long-term drought and recent historic bushfires have stressed the capacity of the few such medical centers for wildlife. Right: A kangaroo, its burned hands and feet wrapped in bandages, recovers at Possumwood.
Rosemary Austen comforts a kangaroo before transporting several burn victims to her Possumwood Wildlife recovery center.
A young male kangaroo, orphaned a year ago, sleeps in a “pouch” at the Native Wildlife Rescue center in Robertson. The center usually keeps orphaned kangaroos for 1.5 years before releasing them into the wild.
A volunteer pets rescued kangaroos at the Possumwood Wildlife recovery center in Bungendore.
Bushfires burn along a mountainside on near Bumbalong.
A female koala recovers in the Native Wildlife Rescue center in Robertson. It had come into the center a week before, emaciated from drought-affected forest. The bandage holds in an IV needle for hydration. Australia’s koala population has been especially hard-hit by the season’s historic wildfires and drought, which has dried up eucalyptus, their main food and water source.
Veterinarians try to persuade koala Frankie, whose ears and fingers were burned in a recent fire, to eat eucalyptus leaves at the Australian Wildlife Health Center in Healesville. The center has taken in 16 koalas injured in the recent fires.
Volunteers bottle-feed orphaned wombats at the Native Wildlife Rescue center on in Robertson. Wombat orphans are often rescued from the pouch of their mothers. Right: Bill Waterhouse holds a rescued wombat at the Majors Creek Wombat Refuge. Its mother was killed on a roadway as wildlife fled nearby bushfires. Many wombats survived the fires by staying in their underground burrows as the fires raged overhead.
An orphaned baby wombat at the Majors Creek Wombat Refuge.
Volunteers organize hay for distribution to surviving wildlife near Bungendore.
A young gray-headed flying fox bat named Izzie. The Shoalhaven Bat Clinic and Sanctuary has received a large number of bats during this fire season. The center rescues injured bats, heals them, and releases them back into the wild. Many, such as these, below, arrived to the center as orphans.
Young gray-headed flying fox bats hang with a teddy bear to cuddle.
John Moore is a photojournalist and Getty Images special correspondent. He is author of “Undocumented: Immigration and the Militarization of the US-Mexico Border.”