An 'urgent and ambitious' project to build a wildlife hospital near Ballarat has been revealed.
During the devastation of unprecedented and widespread bushfires in recent months, the plight of Australian wildlife was brought to the forefront of people's minds, not only here but right around the world.
While pushing many species towards the point of extinction, the fires also provided a glimpse into the future of how wildlife will be affected with the increasing effects of climate change.
However, everyday, Australian wildlife is injured or killed by an array of causes.
According to rescuers, the time is now to make a bold move in an effort to protect native birds and animals, with the development of a resource not seen before in this region.
Dedicating the past 21 years of their lives to assisting wildlife as they fall victim to human activity, the Central Victoria Wildlife Hospital will be operated by Hepburn Wildlife Shelter founders Gayle Chappell and Jon Rowden.
"We have seen enormous increases in numbers over the years and the current system is not sustainable for anyone,' Ms Chappell said.
"We predict we will only see a continuing trend of increased numbers of wildlife in need of help over the years.
"We also want to be prepared to be able to help the regional wildlife in case of fires or other emergencies. It's important to us because the wildlife is important to us. Every individual animal is important to us."
First recognising a need for a permanent wildlife hospital in the region during the 2009 fires, Ms Chappell said she and Mr Rowden had been worrying about how to establish one ever since.
"Wildlife shelters in Victoria essentially close once the carers can no longer physically keep going and that is a great loss to the wildlife and the community," Ms Chappell said.
Established in 2005, the shelter is operated from their home just outside the township of Daylesford.
The volunteer wildlife rescue and treatment centre is self-funded and runs around the clock, with one working day shift and the other night shift, with the assistance of a team of volunteers.
Volunteers at the shelter - a not-for-profit - have assisted and cared for injured, sick, orphaned and distressed wildlife from around Central Victoria and closer to home, such as from the Wombat Forest, for 15 years.
The shelter receives around 1000 animals each year, which are injured in road accidents, caught in fencing, injured by cats or dogs, orphaned by misadventure or by maternal death.
Some find themselves at the shelter after falling in mine shafts, caught in fruit tree netting, in sticky traps or due to primary or secondary poisoning. Starvation and dehydration as a result of drought following low rainfall periods and extreme heat is also an issue.
While birds are the most common patients followed by kangaroos, the shelter rehabilitates a wide range of species.
Following a generous donation of $100,000 by two Hepburn Springs residents, the hospital project has now become a reality.
The hospital will be a $500,000 expansion on the shelter and will be built during the 2020-2021 summer.
But a further $100,000 needs to be raised throughout 2020, in addition to funding gained from applying for $300,000 in anticipated grants.
The hospital will be built from shipping containers that will be fitted out with all of the necessary equipment before being transported to and installed at the property.
We are wanting the hospital to have a very low environmental impact and also to be as fire safe as possible. If for some reason in the future the hospital needs to be moved, it can be.Gayle Chappell
"We are wanting the hospital to have a very low environmental impact and also to be as fire safe as possible," Ms Chappell said.
"If for some reason in the future the hospital needs to be moved, it can be."
As wildlife rescuers respond to incidents around the clock, they often find themselves faced with the predicament of being unable to transport an injured animal to a vet for immediate assessment. It is similar for wildlife shelters, who when receiving animals, do not have easy access to vets to help them to identify the cause of an animal's suffering.
The hospital will be built on the same land as the shelter - so the roles of wildlife rescue, treatment and rehabilitation are integrated at the one site - but the two will operate separately, as the hospital will be a resource for all shelters throughout Central Victoria to utilise to have injured animals assessed and treated 24 hours each day.
"The shelter will [continue to] operate as a rehabilitation facility but we couldn't possibly take on the numbers of animals that we expect the hospital to receive.
"Animals in need of care and rehabilitation will go to other shelters as well."
While the hospital will provide specialist care for wildlife, it is also hoped that it can also be a research and teaching centre. Many of the hospital staff will be volunteers, but Ms Chappell also hopes that employment opportunities can be provided for vets and vet nurses.
"We want the hospital to be a place where vets and vet nurses can learn more about native animals and get some hands on experience," she said.
It is also hoped that having a wildlife hospital in the region will educate and inspire the community about how to coexist with, help and respect wildlife.