The silent victims in the recent bushfire infernos that have ravaged the country have been Australia's wildlife.
Climate change is extending bushfire seasons and making heatwaves more frequent. The extreme heat and ongoing drought is a death sentence for many animals on the frontline.
The blaze around Lake Innes where I live in northern NSW destroyed more than 3500 hectares including a significant habitat for breeding koalas. The Port Macquarie Koala hospital president, Sue Ashton, described it as a "tragedy" and told the Guardian that "the beauty of this particular population is that it's so genetically diverse that it's of national significance."
At a national level, the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water Terri Butler has reported that a growing number of badly injured or displaced animals, like koalas and sugar-gliders are being tended in local wildlife hospitals putting them under strain as they struggle to cope.
Immediately after the bushfires, when we could return to our property after the emergency evacuation, we saw wildlife around the house that aren't normally visible, because they had lost their bush habitat. A small patch of bush has fortunately escaped the flames and we believe that most of the koalas have congregated there. There are wallabies sitting in our front garden looking confused. There is a sad kangaroo and mother wallaby, both with burnt feet.
While most people tend to think in terms of the big, charismatic species, we are also seeing birds coming near our house such as wrens and the Rufous Fantail, that we wouldn't usually see in the open. But as so many trees, and the undergrowth that provides sanctuary for many small birds have come down they now have nowhere to hide. Consider, too, the number of tortoises, lizards and small mammals such an antechinus that would not have been able to escape the fast-moving fires.
On one patrol walk we found a poor confused Eastern long-necked turtle attempting to lay eggs in the sand of the firebreak, since the banks of the lake were where she would normally lay her clutch were burning - we transferred her to the banks of our dam and believe she survived.
As a veterinarian, I grieve for the loss of our beautiful wildlife and ask people to help wherever they can.
However, I also know this is a sticking plaster approach to a situation that demands major surgery. Like an illness, it's no good just treating the symptoms, you must attend to the root causes. The scientific diagnosis is there for us all to see. We must halt climate change in its tracks by eliminating fossil fuel burning from our economy. We must play our part in curing our planet from an illness that is man-made. Coal will not cure us, but renewables can. It's time to choose.
When confronted by a suffering animal who has done nothing to deserve its fate, you have to question why we would make any other choice.
- Dr Angela Frimberger is a veterinary oncologist in Port Macquarie