Victoria is faced with many different types of wildlife emergencies and threats each year, some of which are directly caused by our activities. For example, illegally disposing of toxic substances such as oil into the sea can have disastrous effects on seabirds and marine mammals.
Whales and dolphins can become entangled in discarded rubbish or fishing gear, reducing their ability to feed and produce offspring which can sometimes result in death. Wildlife can also become injured as a result of a natural event like a bushfire.
||Whale and dolphin strandings
Learn how strandings are managed and what you can do to help
||Whale and dolphin entanglements
Find out more about this highly specialised task
||Wildlife affected by marine pollution
Discover how wildlife are affected by oil spills
||Wildlife affected by fires
Learn about rescue operations and how you can become involved.
When does an incident involving injured wildlife become an emergency?Becoming injured, orphaned or sick is unfortunately part of every day life for Australia’s native wildlife. Volunteers with training and experience in wildlife rehabilitation are often involved in the rescue and treatment of individual injured, orphaned or sick animals. These situations are not considered an emergency.
Some situations involving injured wildlife can escalate to an emergency when the scale of the incident is:
- large (e.g. mass whale stranding)
- high risk to human safety (e.g. bushfire), or
- the significance of the species is important (e.g. a threatened species)
What is considered a wildlife emergency?The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) is involved in responding to and/or managing a portfolio of wildlife emergencies. These include:
- whale and dolphin strandings
- whale and dolphin entanglements
- impacts on wildlife during an oil spill event (e.g. smothered in oil or oil ingestion)
- wildlife injury or loss of habitat during bushfires
- disease outbreaks in wildlife
Why do wildlife emergencies happen?Wildlife emergencies typically arise from either a direct consequence of human activities (e.g. whale entanglement in rock lobster fishing lines) or as a result of natural events in which wildlife are impacted on a large scale (e.g. wildlife injury or loss of habitat during wildfires).
Why is DEPI responsible?The Secretary to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) is responsible for wildlife emergency incidents under a range of legislation including:
- Emergency Management Act 1986 (& the Emergency Management Manual of Victoria (EMMV))
- Wildlife Act 1975
- Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986; &
- OH&S Act 2004
Under the Emergency Management Act 1986, the Emergency Management Manual of Victoria (EMMV) lists the incidents that are classified as emergencies and assigns each emergency type with a control agency that is responsible for responding to and managing that emergency. It also assigns support agencies who have the responsibility to assist the control agency with the response. The portfolio of biodiversity emergencies that DEPI has responsibility to respond to under the EMMV include:
- Cetacean (whale and dolphin) entanglements and stranding
- Wildlife injury or loss of habitat during bushfires
- Oil affected wildlife during a marine pollution emergency
- Disease outbreaks in wildlife
- The input of petroleum and related products into Victorian marine and estuarine environments.
- The discharge of human-generated marine debris into Victorian marine or estuarine waters.
How are wildlife emergencies managed?Wildlife emergencies are managed in accordance with the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS). There are various policy and/or operational plans in place for responding to these emergencies. These plans include:
- The Victorian Cetacean Contingency Plan
- Wildlife Response Plan for Marine Pollution Emergencies (June 2007)
- Working with Fire Agencies at Bushfires: Protocols for Volunteers Involved in Wildlife Rescue Operations (V4.1 October 2010)
Number 1 priority – safety!Wildlife emergencies are often high risk situations, therefore the number one priority for the Victoran Government in responding to these emergencies is the safety of all personnel involved. To guarantee the safest possible environment during a wildlife rescue operation, all personnel must operate under the relevant Victorian Government protocols and guidelines.
Interested volunteers - what can you do to help in a wildlife emergency?Depending on the scale and type of an emergency, volunteers can sometimes play a vital role. Volunteers can assist in the search, rescue, cleaning and rehabilitation of injured wildlife, record keeping and other helpful activities.
However, emergency situations generally require a high level of coordination and can be high risk to the safety of those involved. Therefore all personnel involved require specialised skills and training. Improper rescue techniques by an untrained or inexperienced person can also cause further distress or injury to both the animal, and to the volunteer.
All volunteers assisting DEPI during a wildlife emergency incident must operate in accordance with DEPI protocols to ensure each person’s safety and to enable effective management of the incident. Volunteers who do not do as directed by DEPI during a wildlife emergency operation will be asked to leave.
For further information about volunteering in wildlife emergencies, please contact the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.