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Floods challenge volunteer wildlife shelter

Roo in water

September was a miserable month for much of northern, western and central Victoria with storms leading to severe flooding across much of the state. The small town of Koonoomoo, flanked by the Murray River at its northern boundary was heavily impacted. This is the home of the Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter, run by courageous volunteers Kylee and James. As the river twice breached its banks, muddy water spread into the shelter, flooding every enclosure already housing the usual inundation of wildlife that spring brings.


Protecting a property in these conditions is a monumental challenge in itself, but while many of us drew the curtains, these valiant volunteers battled the elements for weeks on end, protecting the animals in their care and responding to desperate calls for the region’s flood-affected wildlife.

Flooded enclosure


“All of our aviaries and enclosures went under water, we were running 5-7 pumps full time to try to get rid of some of it” Kylee reflected. With the enclosures flooded, they opened their doors to offer the shelters’ wildlife some reprieve from the incessant water. “We still have 10 eastern grey (kangaroo) joeys in the lounge, 5 ducklings and a kookaburra in the spare bedroom, 5 eastern grey (kangaroo) joeys and 1 red (kangaroo) joey on the back deck, more birds and reptiles on the deck too.”


Pumps were brought in and over 1,000,000 litres of water was pumped out of the property. SES delivered sandbags to surround the enclosures and loyal friends and volunteers upturned wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of gravel and sand to raise the floor of the joey’s exercise yard to ensure they could move around freely on dry ground. Wildlife Victoria was happy to have contributed to the cost of the enormous amount of sand that was required.


Outside of the shelter, Kylee, James and other Wildlife Victoria volunteers in the area were kept busy with an influx of rescue callouts for waterlogged or displaced wildlife. A boat was used to rescue a mob of kangaroos who’d been forced to find shelter under a house. With the water rising they had become marooned. In a moment of resourcefulness and compassion, the home owner opened his van and removed the interior to provide a dry, elevated area for the young joeys to escape the flood.


Sadly, as it often is in the case of floods, many kangaroos are displaced onto the surrounding elevated roads.  “The phone started ringing at 5:30am and by 11am we’d had over 30 call outs” Kylee recounted, noting that this tragic day required over 90 rescues. Sadly many were hit by vehicles before authorities were able to slow traffic to these locations.

Happy Wallaby


More than a month after the floods began, Kylee, James and their network of volunteers at the Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter are carrying on. Thankfully the waters have substantially receded. Kingfishers, galahs, koalas, echidnas, kangaroos and wallabies, and many other amazing species, were lucky enough to be assisted by these dedicated individuals over this time. Some are still in their care while others have been safely released.


The response of these volunteers with the assistance of their local community to rescue so many animals over this testing time has been nothing short of astounding, and we thank them sincerely for everything they do. 


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