The 99th Koala by Kailas Wild is not the book to read if you are following authors aiming to be rewarded with the Booker Prize. This is a personal account of an ordinary man during extraordinary times who did some truly magnificent things. Written from the heart this is a book that is raw, with photos that will have you smiling one moment and wiping away a tear the next. Indeed, this is one of those books you’d buy just for the photos alone.
The 2019-20 Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,474 hectares of land and resulted in two deaths, 87 homes destroyed and 59,730 livestock lost. The disaster affected nearly half of the island’s land mass and accounted for around 75 per cent of all hectares burnt in South Australia during the Black Summer fire season. Who didn’t tune into the nightly evening news to watch the march of these deadly bushfires along the coast of Australia?
Steven Selwood from South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management claimed 46,000 koalas were thought to be on the island before the bushfires. It is estimated as few as 9,000 remain, as the landscape was turned into scorched earth by the blazes.
Introducing Kailas Wild, self employed arborist, State Emergency Services Volunteer, and a conservationist with native animal rehabilitation training. Although the Australian Defence Force was on hand at Kangaroo Island assisting with the rescue of farm animals and wildlife a cry went out for more volunteers with tree climbing experience, and Kai drove for nearly 18 hours from Sydney to Kangaroo Island to answer the call.
For 7 weeks Kai worked long hours often utilising his own search and rescue techniques for koalas requiring medical attention. His ” days alone amongst burnt trees and dead animals” often left him emotionally and physically drained and ” starting each day crying into his Cornflakes”.
Kai successfully rescued 100 koalas which were transported to a makeshift Koala Hospital on the Island. Do you remember the media images sent around the world of koalas in laundry baskets receiving medical attention?
Some koalas that looked healthy died of smoke inhalation and internal damages, some died from nasty falls and stress, but many were rehabilitated and regained their health and were reintroduced to the wild including numerous joey koalas.
Two facts I found interesting :
- After a bushfire the blackened trees start to spurt new growth. I always thought this is a good thing. Guess what : fresh shoots on trees are known as epicormic growth and have a higher level of toxicity that makes them inedible for koalas. From the trees perspective this is a defence mechanism when it is trying to recover from fires.*
- Koalas in a tree may look healthy but it may well be that their paws are burnt so badly that any movement is extremely painful. These koalas generally starve to death………..and I simply can’t recount the tales about all the burns that led to the peeling away of skin. 😢
Kai writes ” we all shared the profound sense of grief at the loss of over a billion of our unique wild animals, along with their habitats. The number was, and still is, beyond comprehension.”
This is the story of what one ordinary man could achieve under horrific circumstances. Let’s all take some inspiration from Kailas Wild.
This Book Review is an entry in the Gaia / Nature Reading Challenge.
If you sign up and submit an entry before the end of February Sharon from Gumtreesandgalaxies.com will donate an Australian children’s book about wombats to a new charity aimed at promoting children’s literacy You can read more here :
*It has since been established that some koalas can adapt to eating new growth.