A unique wildlife hospital hauled by a UD Truck, aptly named ‘Matilda’, is preparing for the worst as the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts increased risk of bushfires in eastern Australia due to reduced rainfall, high fuel loads and above average temperatures.
Built three years ago, the mobile veterinary hospital became possible due to successful fundraising and public support.
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital CEO Stephen Van Mil says they are preparing for the unpredictable bushfire season.
“The world saw the terrible images of burned koalas in laundry baskets during Australia’s catastrophic Black Summer Bushfires,” Van Mil says.
“WWF Australia estimated that three billion animals died in that horrifying natural disaster. It’s impossible to get your head around the scale of that loss. We vowed to never again allow that to happen, which is why we are preparing for the worst.”
Matilda is wholly owned by Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital (BBWH), the only all-species wildlife hospital in NSW outside of Taronga Wildlife Hospitals.
Licensed by the Veterinary Practitioners Board of NSW, BBWH is open 7 days a week and provides full veterinary hospital services exclusively for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, free of charge.
Van Mil says they have treated over 5000 animals since opening in 2020.
“We have a crisis operations plan for deployment, and unique capacity to save wildlife during a bushfire, flood or other natural disaster. We have written to every level of government including the Prime Minister offering our services,” he says.
“We hope they call us to help. It will be dreadful to receive a call from Emergency Incident Controllers, but that’s what we are here for. We’re ready.”
Through its partnership with UD Trucks Australia, Matilda can be mobilised to travel to the scene of a natural disaster such as a bushfire, flood, mass stranding or oil spill affecting wildlife on a large scale.
The hospital has all the veterinary equipment and supplies needed to triage, treat, and carry out lifesaving surgery on sick and injured wildlife.
The mobile hospital is equipped with a satellite dish, solar panels, onboard water and deep cell batteries to operate self-sufficiently for an extended deployment to a disaster zone.
UD Trucks vice president Philippa Wood says, “Sustainability and environmental care are at the heart of everything we do, both at UD Trucks and as a part of Volvo Group Australia.”
“This incredible mobile hospital is powered by one of the cleanest, most fuel efficient and safest trucks on the road today, the UD Quon, which is entirely fitting given its mission.
“The partnership between Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and UD Trucks is incredibly important. We are facing a dangerous summer in terms of fire risk, and I think the work that the BBWH team does is sadly becoming increasingly important as the effects of climate change become more extreme.
“We’re working closely with The Wildlife Hospital team to prepare for and assist with their deployment, and we stand ready with BBWH to proactively respond to help wildlife the minute it is needed.”