Unique wildlife truck braces for action ahead of fire season

A unique mobile wildlife hospital called Matilda is preparing to leap into action; as the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicts an increased risk of bushfires in eastern Australia due to reduced rainfall, high fuel loads and above average temperatures.

“We built Matilda three years ago through public support and a successful fundraising campaign,” said founder and CEO Dr Stephen Van Mil.

“The world saw the terrible images of burned koalas in laundry baskets during Australia’s catastrophic Black Summer Bushfires.

“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.”

Through a partnership with UD Trucks Australia, Matilda can travel to the scene of a natural disaster whenever needed, whether it be 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.

Matilda is wholly owned by the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and is the only all-species wildlife hospital in NSW outside of Taronga Wildlife Hospitals.

Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital provides full veterinary hospital services exclusively for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, free of charge.

Matilda has 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,” explained Van Mil.

“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.”

The unique mobile hospital is powered by the UD Quon, which was seen as a perfect fit due to its fuel efficiency and added safety features.

“Sustainability and environmental care are at the heart of everything we do, both at UD Trucks and as a part of Volvo Group Australia” said UD Trucks vice president Philippa Wood.

“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.”

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