Tempus fugit and all that…
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Howie: from ASOPA to Aussie wildlife vet

Josephine Asher, ninemsn

Howie_Peacock A peacock, duck, turtle and a koala joey are among the patients one volunteer vet has treated this week amid Victoria's bushfire-ravaged regions where a million animals are thought to have perished.

Dr Howard Ralph — a human doctor, vet and burns specialist — has taken time away from his vet surgery in Braidwood in southern NSW to treat the feathered and four-legged victims of the tragedy.

"In a bushfire such as this most creatures involved in it will end up dead. The ones that do survive — whilst they're injured they are treatable," he told ninemsn.

"Most of these creatures will do well. But for some it could be many weeks before their burns are healed and they can go back to the wild."

Dr Ralph — a volunteer with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — estimates he has treated about 40 animals including horses, dogs, dingoes, goats, koalas, a peacock, turtle and a duck since arriving in Whittlesea four days ago.

Most were being treated for burns and injuries sustained while frantically trying to escape the fire.

Howie_Wallaby "When they're caught up in the melee of the fire they often end up with puncture wounds, eye injuries and head injuries," Dr Ralph said.

A woman who lost her house but survived with her dog thought her beloved pet peacock had perished. That was until she saw it at Dr Ralph's temporary clinic on television on Tuesday night.

"Someone found it and brought it to one of the rescue shelters," Dr Ralph said.

After being treated for a toe injury, the peacock was sent to carers and it will eventually be reunited with its owner and canine friend.

A koala with her joey was admitted to Dr Ralph's temporary clinic yesterday. The mother was suffering burns to her feet, dehydration, exposure and lack of food.

"She was in severe trouble last night but she's looking a lot brighter this morning," Dr Ralph said.

But there were of course some animals who had to be euthanased.

A wallaby whose eyes had been destroyed from severe burns around the face had no possibility of surviving.

"Unfortunately we had to give up on her," Dr Ralph said.

"I always feel sad for these animals so dependent on the environment. They don't ask for this on their lives… they just suffer the consequences," Dr Ralph said.

"If I can do something to alleviate the stress and suffering of these animals… that's why I'm in this line of work."

Dr Ralph has attended wildlife rescue operations all over the world including in Borneo but has previously worked as a doctor and anaesthetist in Sydney and Canberra and at Moruya Hospital.

He is currently setting up Southern Cross Wildlife Care in Braidwood in southern NSW.

Source: ‘Four-legged fire victims rescued’ by Josephine Asher, ninemsn, 14 February 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patricia Henrickson

What a wonderful Job you are doing. May God bless.

Diane Bohlen

Well done Howie!

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