Longleat Koala Keepers Return to see Australian Bushfire Recovery

Koala keepers from Longleat have returned to Australia to see how wildlife is recovering following the devastating bushfires.

In 2020 two keepers travelled to Cleland Wildlife Park to help with the aftermath of their fires.

Three years later, keepers Jon Ovens and James Dennis made the trip back to South Australia to see how the recovery programme is progressing and to visit some of the conservation projects Longleat is supporting.

Longleat is the only zoological collection in Europe to look after southern koalas and is part of a long-term partnership with the South Australia Government, Koala Life and Cleland Wildlife Park, in the Adelaide Hills, to support research and conservation programmes for wild koalas.

During the visit they met up with staff from Cleland Wildlife Park along with relatives of some of Longleat’s own southern koalas including Sugar, the mum of Violet and her half-brother Rocket.

For James, the trip has also been an opportunity to re-acquaint himself with some of the native wildlife he last saw back in 2020.

“It’s amazing to have the opportunity to come back and see all the amazing work that Cleland and a host of other conservation groups are carrying out to help both the wildlife and nature to recover,” he said.

“From a personal perspective it’s also lovely to meet some old friends and see how well they are doing. Three years ago, we saw some pretty awful scenes and heard some terrible stories so for me to be able to see first-hand how things have progressed since then is extremely heartening,” said James.

“Nature is incredibly resilient and the contrast with what much of the countryside looked like shortly after the bushfires is extraordinary.

“However, the devastation was so intense and so widespread the teams are still having to deal with the aftermath today and there is always the constant threat of more significant bushfires in the future,” he added.

As part of the trip, the keepers also got to share experiences of caring for koalas with the Cleland team and go out on a eucalyptus leaves gathering trip as well as assisting in wildlife recuperation and recovery programmes.

James and Jon also re-visited Minton Farm Animal Rescue, whose work Longleat is supporting and went to an area known as Scott’s Creek which suffered particularly badly during the bushfires to see how it was recovering.

The pair had the opportunity to meet a range of native species including echidnas, dingoes, kangaroos, possums, Tasmanian devils and wombats as well as koalas.

Since May 2019 Longleat, with the help of generous visitors, has donated nearly £120,000 to help fund work being undertaken by a number of wildlife rescue groups including Koala Life, SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management) and Minton Farm Rescue.