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‘Noah’s Ark Bus’ Evacuates a Menagerie of Orphaned Animals Away from the Queensland Bushfires

More than 150 animals—including crocodiles, monkeys, and koalas—were ferried out of the Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday night.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
Noah's Ark and Australian bushfires
Image via Pxhere (L) and Flickr user bert knottenbeld, CC licence 2.0 (R)

As infernal wildfires ravaged an area of bushland in central Queensland this week, more than 150 sick and injured animals—a veritable menagerie of birds, small reptiles, crocodiles, koalas, and monkeys—were evacuated out of the disaster zone on a bus.

Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary, a 25-acre park located near the town of Yeppoon, rescues and rehabilitates injured and abandoned wildlife including snakes, kangaroos, dingos, emus, cassowaries, guinea pigs, and iguanas. It also happens to be on the frontline of the unprecedented bushfires that are currently ravaging Queensland.

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On Saturday night, as a 14-kilometre fire front burned nearby and flames and embers circled, staff at the park loaded the animals onto a bus and transported them to safety. According to ranger Kieron Smedley, it was something of a Biblical scene.

"We have a bus on site specifically designed to evacuate animals," Kieron told the ABC. "We evacuated more than 150 animals and that included everything from koalas, to monkeys, to crocodiles, to a wide variety of birds, reptiles—everything you could imagine.

"Basically we had like a Noah's ark bus."

All in all the evacuation took about five hours, with staff and volunteers frantically loading the variety of animals onto the bus and ferrying them away from the danger zone. Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary survived the disaster unscathed, and on Monday rangers and volunteers—as well as the sick, injured, and orphaned animals—were able to return to the park.

The animals spent a total 48 hours away from the sanctuary. Yesterday, the park remained closed to the public so that staff could reintroduce them to their enclosures and get them settled, while monitoring the fire emergency in case of further evacuations.

"As you can imagine, relocating animals can be very stressful [for them]," Kieron told the ABC. "Stress can be a killer and we have to ensure that the animals do stay as relaxed as possible."

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