Aired Sunday April 17th, 2011 at 7:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
On February 7, 2009, drought and a record-breaking heat wave in the Australian state of Victoria generated a firestorm of epic proportions. High winds turned 400 bushfires into one raging fire front that trapped animals and people. One hundred seventy three people died. Entire towns were wiped off the map. More than a million acres of forest burned and countless animals perished. Known at "Black Saturday," it was one of the worst natural disasters to hit Australia.
After the fire, some wildlife and ecosystems sprang back on their own. Those not so lucky needed special humanitarian relief. Burned and traumatized kangaroos and koalas, wombats and wallabies, endangered possums and gliders, lizards, birds of all kinds, and even fish relied upon volunteers and vets to nurse them back to health at wildlife hospitals and private facilities. It's a story of renewal, hope and inspiration. Nature "Survivors of the Firestorm" premieres on Sunday April 17 at 7:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
Soon after the fire, volunteers worked with the Wildlife Health Center to search for surviving animals. Wombats and kangaroo babies are given surrogate mothers to look after them. With burns and wounds treated and food and tender loving care provided, some remarkable recoveries are achieved.
Out in the forest, renewal is taking place. Mountain ash trees produce millions of seeds and seedlings. Eucalyptus sprout new growth from what were once dormant buds beneath charred bark. The forest floor is transformed with moss and fungi, and orchids and lilies bloom in profusion, their growth spurred by abundant light and nutrients from ash and smoke. Animals repopulate the area, finding their way through the changed surroundings. Predators move in to hunt what they can find. Birds return filling the air with their songs.
Other animals need help to reestablish their populations. Endangered possums are provided with feeding stations and nest boxes to help them recover their numbers. Rare fish rescued from streams filled with ash and stripped of oxygen are kept in tanks through the winter and then carefully returned eight months after the fires.
One year after the fire, heavy summer rains break twelve years of drought. The forest is green again. Rescued koalas have been successfully reintegrated back into their forest lives. Cockatoos are courting. The frogs return. And a small but vital population of endangered Leadbeater's possums has survived the winter and is thriving. People and wildlife both have shown amazing resilience. They are rebuilding their lives in a world that rises again, out of the ashes.
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