28 Nov Water water everywhere
On March 2nd 2022 Ballina’s Richmond River was well and truly in the grip of flood. The Australian Seabird & Turtle Rescue (ASTR) property is at river level and we watched helplessly while the water crept higher and higher. Surely it wouldn’t get any higher – this has never happened before! But rise it did until we realised that things were going very bad for ASTR. We had 13 turtles in care and 3 birds with lethal rising water levels.
We made some frantic phone calls, loaded 11 of the turtles into the back of our rescue truck and began the journey to transfer them to Seaworld – 106km away. 11 turtles in the back of a Landcruiser is quite a tight fit. Seaworld didn’t have the facilities to take 2 of our marine turtles that had an infectious disease so they had to make anther 150km trip to Coffs Harbour.
By this time the ASTR aviary was underwater and the filtration pumps and filters submerged or badly damaged. Our caretakers were evacuated and the birds went home with the staff to be cared for in their homes.
It was several days before we could access the sodden and stinking grounds to survey the damage. Our storage area and garage had been underwater and had to be cleaned out. the aviary had to have all the sand excavated and to be thoroughly disinfected, and the filtration system was beyond saving. We wondered how we would ever recover and get going again but compared to the loss of life and homes our damage seemed secondary. However the animals just kept coming in – victims of severe weather and from being swept around in flood waters.
Thanks to may volunteers and generous help from organisations, including a grant from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW)- Wildlife Heroes Emergency Grant we gradually built our systems up again against all odds. The cost and practicalities for a small wildlife organisation seemed too much at times.
But there were some silver lining moments. The river from which we draw our water lost it’s salinity so using the funds from FNPW we had to make our own salt water! For a time our turtles enjoyed pristine freshly made salt water and seemed to thrive on it. The filtration systems were beyond saving and were totally rebuilt. Now our water quality is better than ever before and all the equipment has been raised in mitigation of future weather events.
Solar batteries have now been installed for mitigation against power outages in the future, nothing could have foreseen the events of that period but we have proved to be resilient and to have solid plans in place in case it ever happens again.