When not fighting fires or helping communities rebuild, soldiers from the Australian Army’s Joint Task Force 1111 can be found nursing koalas back to health.
Tens of thousands of koalas were taken to wildlife centres with severe burns, or having lost their entire families following Australia’s devastating wildfires.
“It is nice to be doing something that is life-giving when you have seen so much destruction,” Chaplain Michelle Philip said.
It is estimated that nearly half of Australia’s koala population has perished in the wildfires. Koalas are particularly vulnerable as they are slow-moving and cannot escape the rapidly spreading flames.
Cleland Wildlife Park in South Australia is caring for the injured koalas rescued from Kangaroo Island. The heavily vegetated island was devastated by bushfires, with nearly 50 per cent of the island’s vegetation left charred.
Park representatives requested support from the Australian Army, as the koalas required intermittent feeding over several days.
Soldiers welcomed this opportunity to take a break from their more laborious duties, which included clearing routes, carting water and helping communities get back on their feet.
They see this as a chance to recharge — and officers even had to implement a waitlist because many soldiers were requesting “koala time.”
The soldiers from the 16 Regiment Emergency Support Force are finding all the support tasks very meaningful, as they are directly helping members of the Adelaide Hills community that have been directly affected by the fires.
The koala joey support task force will continue working with wildlife centres in the hopes of helping Australia’s koala population recover from the brink.