British Columbia

'Emotionally, it's going to be difficult': B.C. volunteer team heading to Australia to help rescue animals

A team of volunteers led by dog trainer Brad Pattison of Kelowna, B.C., are heading to the Melbourne area to work with local organizations helping dehydrated and injured animals.

'The devastation to the animals ... it is an atrocity,' says animal rescue leader from Kelowna, B.C.

The B.C. team will work with local Australian organizations already depleted of medical supplies and energy. Here, a volunteer from Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (WIRES) holds a kangaroo with burnt feet pads after being rescued from bushfires in Australia's Blue Mountains area, December 30, 2019. (Jill Gralow/Reuters)

As bushfires continue to ravage Australia, an animal rescue team from Kelowna, B.C., is gearing up to go down under in about a week to try to help save wildlife.

Ecologists estimate that approximately 480 million animals have died due to the fires, which have burned over five million hectares of land.

Kelowna local Brad Pattison, dog trainer and former host of the TV reality show At the End of My Leash, will be joined by four other team members, to go to the Melbourne area where they will be working with some local organizations and sanctuaries to try to help dehydrated and injured animals.

"My team is going down to help retrieve animals that will need help being rescued physically, but also there is a lot of work that needs to be done in these sanctuaries and rescue organizations because they're just tapped, the people are exhausted," he said.

Pattison, pictured, has previously lead a team of animal rescuers to Haiti after the 2010 eathquake, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Calgary after the flood in 2013, among other places. (Submitted by Brad Pattison)

Pattison and his team members from across Canada, have previously done animal rescue work during B.C.'s wildfires, in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in Calgary after the floods in 2013

"I just feel that as a Canadian, we have this freedom and with my occupation, I have the knowledge and expertise in certain crisis situations that my team is able to bring help," he told CBC's Brady Strachan. 

"Emotionally, it's going to be difficult on my team. It's going to be horrible. Those atrocities are real."

Pattison's team will be working with the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary along with other local organizations while in Australia. 

Pattison, pictured in New Orleans, went to Louisiana to work with dog rescue groups in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Submitted by Brad Pattison)

"They're telling us that they need a lot of medical supplies," said Pattison. 

Right now, they are in the process of preparing and fundraising for the trip. His team has night vision equipment which they will be bringing with them so that they can rescue animals even in the dark.

They also plan on bringing tree climbing equipment with them.

"The purpose for that is it's retrieving animals that are burnt, but they're frozen. They're frozen in pain and that pain doesn't allow them to be mobile enough to get down to ground. So we're taking our tree climbing equipment to retrieve animals from higher heights that a ladder will not be able to reach," said Pattison.

Often times when they arrive in a crisis stricken place, their plans shift, so for now, they aren't sure how long they will be going for, he added.

From what Pattison has heard from his contacts on the ground, the devastation is staggering.

"The devastation to the animals — that is not exaggerated, it's actually less than exaggerated. It is an atrocity."



With files from Brady Strachan and Radio West


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