Injured wildlife get only $6.5m from $60m fires donations
Wildlife carers are struggling to save thousands of animals injured in bushfires, while tens of millions of dollars in donations sit idle.
The NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (WIRES) has received more than $60 million from around the world, but The Daily Telegraph can reveal only $6.5 million has been allocated to date.
At the same time, small NSW rescue operations are crying out for funds to help support injured animals.
Scientists believe a billion animals were killed by fires this season, with millions more injured or left without food and habitats.
Possumwood Wildlife, an animal rescue and research facility on the southern tablelands, is one group that has not received any cash from WIRES.
Co-directors Professor Steve Garlick and his wife Rosemary Austen have relied on international aid and visiting vets to help treat animals burned in bushfires.
"I would say most wildlife organisations around here have a very negative view of WIRES," he said.
"They put out a note saying they were prepared to give grants of up to $20,000 for groups, well if you do the math on how many there are in NSW, that's not much of what has been donated."
Sunshine Coast local Dee Smith has been collecting medical supplies to send to small shelters and carer co-ordinators directly because WIRES had been too slow.
"At the end of the day the wildlife should be everyone's main concern and I would think that $60 million would be more than enough to share throughout Australia for carers and shelters who are working hard to nurse these animals back to health," she said.
Ms Smith said she had supported about 40 carers in Victoria and knew of two other women who had supported about 100 volunteers spread across NSW, Victoria and Canberra.
"I also know of a group of 40 carers in Victoria who have all applied for funding through WIRES and have heard nothing back," she said.
The $60 million in donations is almost 20 times what WIRES received last year.
According to the organisation's 2018/19 annual report, WIRES' entire revenue was about $3.3 million, of which about $1.9 million was spent on staff costs.
The charity had 13 full-time employees, two part-time and 23 casual staff.
A WIRES spokesman said until the "overwhelming" global response, including from Barack Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Kylie Jenner, the organisation lived "hand to mouth".
"We have not asked any of these people for support, it appears to all be self generating as the world has watched the horror unfold," he said.
"In terms of this unprecedented crisis WIRES has developed a strategic framework comprising Response (immediate), Relief and Recovery stages."
Two weeks ago WIRES launched a $1 million grant program for rescue groups to apply for $20,000 and individuals to apply for $5000 to cover the costs of animal food, medical supplies, veterinary needs and equipment.
WIRES has also allocated $2 million to wildlife volunteers for "immediate needs", $1 million for water and habitat replacements and $1 million for food.
The spokesman for WIRES said the organisation would role out $25 million for Stage 2, including long-term rehabilitation of animals and research to identify threatened species.
Stage 3 - estimated to be $22 million - will then focus on preserving remaining populations and rolling out WIRES rescue response training interstate to increase the number of volunteers.
WIRES' Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people concerned about how slowly funds were being given out.