Wildlife carer Joh Ponton with a baby sugar glider rescued from the Gaeta fire.
Wildlife carer Joh Ponton with a baby sugar glider rescued from the Gaeta fire. Ron Burgin

Wildlife wiped out after blaze

MEET Gaeta the baby sugar glider, one of the few wildlife survivors of rampaging fires that tore through the area she was named after.

As landowners rebuild in the wake of the devastating blaze, wildlife carers in the region have told a heartbreaking tale of thousands of creatures killed by fast-moving fires, limbs melted by the extreme heat and breeding cycles affected for years to come.

Wildlife carer and Gaeta resident Joh Ponton said she had never seen a fire with such devastating effects on wildlife.

“It was just such an incredibly hot fire and it was just so fast the animals just couldn't escape,” she said.

Mrs Ponton said she had spoken to firefighters who were forced to euthanase goannas with melted feet and stomachs.

“Usually I would get a few animals with some singed hair, but not this time. Barely any could escape the heat,” she said.

“We were able to rescue this baby sugar glider who was separated from her mum, though.”

The tiny glider would be living in her mother's pouch if not for the ferocious fires.

“We have no idea where her family is,” Mrs Ponton said.

Thousands of hectares have been scorched.

“Because it has been so dry the fires went all the way up trees, which killed all the night birds which live there,” Mrs Ponton said.

Lack of food means surviving animals now face starvation.

“All of the native food is gone,” Mrs Ponton said. “There are no bugs or lizards or grass for the wildlife to eat.

“The ones that have survived will now do it very hard for food.”

Slow-moving animals such as echidnas are not expected to be seen in the region for years.

“They have all been wiped out and it will be some time before they come back.”

She said she expected to see more animals needing care, in the following weeks, which had not been able to find food.

“Birds will really suffer,” she said.

“There is nothing for them to eat.”

Mrs Ponton has called for the community to adhere to fire bans.

“If people could only realise the long-term suffering they cause to these animals,” she said.

“At least people understand what is happening and can rebuild.

“These creatures are helpless.”

Read more:

Mending fences for Gaeta

Assistance for Gaeta community

Gaeta farmers rise from the ashes

Gaeta fire update

Bundaberg aflame

Be ready for fires

Read more about the fires at Gaeta

Keep up-to-date with fires and fire bans in Bundaberg region.

Get up-to-date weather information for the Bundaberg region.

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