On the evening of 29th November, we made the decision to evacuate the animals of Little Oak Sanctuary due to the threat of the Tallaganda Forest/North Black Range fire.
We evacuated the majority of our animals, in what was a mammoth effort, operating on 45 minutes sleep and in an incredibly stressful situation, due to the unstoppable support of our community.
The threat did not end there. We spent over 15 days preparing to defend the property. Cleaning leaf litter from around buildings, cutting fire breaks, listening to hourly updates direct from the RFS, monitoring the wind forecasts, fire risk ratings, weather forecasts and updates from neighbours located right near the fire front. The massive Northern front of the fire became the most active and directly threatened the sanctuary during the final few days before the fire was contained. Southerly winds continued to push the fire towards us, shortly before it was contained the fire was just 2km from the sanctuary itself.
The evacuation did not happen without incident, and sadly one of our older goats Grace was trampled during the evacuation process. Tragically, despite all veterinary assistance, she did not recover and we were absolutely heart broken to have to make the decision to relieve her suffering. Losing an animal whilst you are undertaking action to save their lives is perhaps one of the hardest things we have experienced.
The Bush fires of 2019
Our hearts are broken for dear Grace, but we have not had the capacity to grieve for her yet as the fire threat remained. Once we have had the time to process this entire situation, we will be planting a Peppermint Gum in her honor. This tree is one that was commonly found in the Tallaganda Forest that has been decimated by this ferocious fire, and is also a preferred food source for our dear, struggling Koalas.
During the period our animals were evacuated, we still needed to ensure the locations they were evacuated to were kept in feed and water, this was a top priority for us and we are extremely grateful of the help of volunteers and donors who contributed towards this mammoth effort.
On Friday 13th December, the fire was finally declared 'contained' or 'under control'. This means that there is no active fire. Hot spots may still remain, and on a fire ground of over 37,425 ha, there is a lot of ground to cover. The RFS still monitor the situation closely. We are also around 20km from the 240,000ha Currowan/Charleys Forest fire that is impacting the south coast and areas east and north east of Braidwood. We are bracing for a summer of extreme heat and intense fire conditions. This is a fire season like no other before it, and we will be posting more about it in days to come. For now, we want to let you know that our animals are home. The sanctuary is smokey, but we'd hazard a guess in saying there's not much of Australia that isn't smokey at the moment. This smoke is the remnants of ancient forests. It is a reminder of how what we are doing is impacting the planet. It is a warning to act now to save our world - for ourselves and for other beings.
This fire has taken up so much more than our time, it has left us with some emotional scars that we will probably keep for life. It has also taken a financial toll. If you would like to help, you can donate to our drought and fire fund – the cost of keeping our animals fed and watered at their evacuation points, the cost of transporting them, and associated vet bills have stacked up. Any assistance is much appreciated.
The drought has just gotten worse and worse. The pastures at Little oak are dry and dusty, the creek has stopped and our dams are drying up, and all this before we even hit summer. Due to a decision by council, Local water carters are no longer able to deliver water to us for our tanks, meaning we have to go farther afield to find water to keep our animal residents alive, this will make water deliveries more expensive. The drought is in its third year; things are only getting more desperate.
As we head into summer, we urgently need to stock up on hay for the 186 animals we have in our care, and ensure we have funds to cover water to keep everyone alive. The sheep, goats, cattle, horses, all of our birds, the pigs; all need food and water to survive.
To make matters worse, the cost of hay is at all-time highs ($25 for a small bale and $280+ for large bales), we've calculated we need at least 250 small bales and 20+ large bales to get through summer as there is just no grass. Water cartage pricing increases just add to the pressure.
That's the basics we need to survive, but going forward we need to upgrade our equipment to allow us to better implement our fire plans. We need to undertake repairs on our horse float, purchase a stock trailer and truck to ensure should we need to evacuate again, we can do so whilst ensuring the animals are transported with the care and respect we require.