Even though bushfires continue to ravage New South Wales and North-East Victoria, they are now at a much lesser capacity than they were a month ago.

Countless Australians have been giving their all in the last several months to put a stop to the raging fires, whether it was going to the firefront to push away the incoming flames, or joining in the humanitarian aid and relief efforts for both people and animals in need.

Recently, Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, has called up 3,000 reserve soldiers to help with the firefighting and evacuation operations in Eastern Australia. Like many others, they have been working tirelessly for days and some even weeks.

However, despite receiving well-deserved rest time between shifts, many soldiers surprisingly chose to trade in their off-time to continue helping the country recover from the bushfires. The 16th Regiment Emergency Support Force has been recently going viral after a handful of photos of them cuddling and feeding koalas was posted on their unit’s Facebook page.

Bored Panda got in touch with Captain Garnett Hall, an Australian Army Vet who has been recently deployed in Kangaroo Island, where he and members of the 9th Brigade were tasked to assist the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park with the large number of injured wildlife at the park coming in.

Garnett Hall is the Director and Veterinarian at the West Coast Veterinary Hospital in Perth, Australia. He became a vet because he always enjoyed science and medicine. Having grown up with a lot of animals—dogs, cats, chickens, guinea pigs, turtles, turkeys, rats, and lizards—he knew he wanted to be either a vet or a human doctor.

In one of the viral pictures, a handful of soldiers is seen holding displaced koalas wrapped in blankets at the Cleland Wildlife Park, providing comfort to them during feeding time. Needless to say, it’s an adorable sight to see. The post read: “16 Regiment Emergency Support Force have been using their rest periods to lend a helping hand at the Cleland Wildlife Park, supporting our furry friends during feeding time and by building climbing mounts inside the park. A great morale boost for our hard-working team in the Adelaide Hills.”

“I think Australia’s native animals, such as koalas, have suffered the most from the bushfires,” explained Hall. “When threatened, their instincts are to climb trees. However, when faced with a fire, this response leads to tragedy. The koalas cannot outrun those flames and, as a result, most that were in the fire-affected areas have died. Some have survived, but they have horrible burns on their hands, feet, and faces.”

The troops of the 16th Regiment were also tasked with preparing new onsite grounds for the koalas to roam in. This included building special mounts for the koalas, facilitating their climb to the trees where they naturally hide from predators and cool off during hot days.

We asked Garnett Hall what is the most challenging part of taking care of rescued koalas. He had this to say: “The most challenging part is reducing stress and pain. Many of these koalas have extensive burns, which would be incredibly painful. On top of that, they are scared, their homes have been destroyed, their friends are likely all dead, and they’ve been taken to a strange place for treatment. We do our best to give them appropriate pain relief and sedation, but cleaning and dressing their burns is still a difficult thing.”

The 9th Brigade also sent their vets to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park to help treat wounded wildlife. In a video posted on the Australian Army’s YouTube channel, Captain Garnett Hall explains that it is a very grim picture as numerous wildlife are affected by the fires, mostly koalas. They are being treated for burns on their paws and faces, many also have singed fur.

“It’s been really enjoyable to have private soldiers who were attached to the veteran team as drivers, but I actually have been using as veterinary assistants, and it’s been so helpful to have an extra set of hands to help hold animals and to let me treat their wounds. It’s been great and they’ve absolutely loved it,” explained Captain Garnett Hall in the video.

Since then, the Facebook post went viral, garnering over 24,000 reactions with 43,000 shares in just a couple of days.

We’ve asked Garnett Hall what is one thing he wishes people knew more about koalas, to which he answered: “Koalas are amazing and interesting animals. Like many other Australian mammals, they have pouches, in which they carry their babies until they are big enough to venture out on their own. I’d like to encourage everyone to visit Australia and see these wonderful animals themselves.”

Responses to "Australian Army Soldiers Use Rest Time To Care For Bushfire Koalas"

  1. Jose M. says:

    It's nice to see the military used to care for nature and wildlife.

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