Bushfire then coronavirus - Raptor Domain wildlife sanctuary battles second crisis on Kangaroo Island

Staff and animals at the Raptor Domain wildlife centre like many others on Kangaroo Island are dealing with their second crisis in just a few months.

The environmental education and rehabilitation centre was directly in the line of fire during the summer's devastating bushfires with the animals evacuated to safety three times in less than a month.

Now the centre is closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus with the owners and staff taking care of the animals under the strict guidelines and without any paying customers.

Centre owners Leeza and Dave Irwin however remain remarkably upbeat about the situation and have again praised the commitment and tenacity of their staff.

Mrs Irwin said every single animal, 45 birds, 30 reptiles, several spiders and scorpions, were evacuated three times during the bushfires.

The final time saw the Army personnel from Australian Defence Force step in to help evacuate animals using their armoured personnel carriers.

Each time the animals ended up in the Kingscote house of keeper Nina Maurovic, with staff concerned how the birds were coping being cooped up in boxes for up to three days.

"After all that we just had to get back through the roadblock and luckily conditions eased after that," Leeza said. "It put's everything in perspective and we have a new plan to get out when we need to."

Now the coronavirus pandemic had brought new challenges.

Dave and Leeza Irwin live at the park and so are able to keep an eye on the animals.

But their staff have also been retained on a minimum roster so they can come in and maintain their relationship with the individual animals, many of which need daily stimulation and interaction.

Staff have also been volunteering their time. Keeper Blake Hutchinson has been spending time with Marrakai, the magnificent white-bellied sea eagle.

The keepers have been using their imaginations to keep their training up for the birds from the birds from the In-Flight show.

"We want to keep them flying and the training going, and the birds remain in top condition, so we can reopen as soon as things return to normal," Leeza said.

Luckily feeding the animals is not an issue as they have their rat and mice breeding program with plenty of donated food left over from the bushfires.

And there is always a plentiful supply of roadkill picked up bu staff on their way into work.

Raptor Domain's GoFundMe page set up during the fires remains active and raised $30,000 so far.

The Irwins used the donations to purchase a large caravan that has been gutted and modified with animal shelters to allow their entire collection of animals to be loaded up and relocated.

They have also constructed 30 portable pop-up, mesh aviaries, which at 3.6 metres long will allow the birds to have more space in the event of an extended evacuation period.

To help Raptor Domain through these difficult times, the account is BSB: 015 600 Acc #: 2911 955 48 Name: Leeza Irwin.


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