A family visiting the Snowy Mountains during the ski season last year, have turned a holiday trauma into an act of support and activism for a local community group.
Devastated by the number of dead animals they encountered on their trip to Thredbo, the McAlester family from the lower Blue Mountains turned their experience around by doing something to help local wildlife group LAOKO (Looking After Our Kosciuszko Orphans – Snowy Mountains Rescue) which rescues and cares for injured and orphaned wildlife in the region.
Mum, Emma McAlester says the family was really shocked at the number of dead animals beside the road –
“I was gobsmacked.”
Mrs McAlester says her children, Hamish, 12 years and Isobel, 10 years, were very distressed and “Isobel was howling most of the way from Canberra to Thredbo.”
“It was hard to explain it to them,” she says.
“Isobel and her brother started counting the dead animals they could see on the side of the road. They counted 191 animals.”
Mrs McAlester says wombats are Isobel’s favourite animal and she counted 96 dead wombats during her first time to the snow in the winter of 2018.
“Isobel was so traumatised. But we looked up LAOKO on the internet and decided we could do something to help.”
“On the LAOKO website we saw we could help by making pouches.
“Isobel has adopted LAOKO as her cause by making pouches and raising money for the group.”
Isobel says she wanted to do something to help the animals.
“I hope I helped LAOKO by donating money and making pouches,” she says.
“I made 12 animal pouches for LAOKO and donated $102 by collecting bottles and cans, and $2 from the tooth fairy,” Isobel says.
Mrs McAlester says she and her husband matched her daughter’s fundraising dollar for dollar.
LAOKO president, Brendan Diacono agrees it is very distressing to see so many wildlife dead on the road.
“On behalf of LAOKO, we thank Isobel and her family so much for sending those wonderful animal pouches and donation to us,” he says.
“They are so beautifully made and show lots of hard work and care.
“We really appreciated her carefully handwritten letter explaining her inspiration to donate the money and pouches.”
Isobel has since been made an honorary member of LAOKO.
Mr Diacono says for every one of the 191 dead kangaroos, wallabies and wombats that Isobel and Hamish counted, there is a damaged car and a ruined holiday.
“LAOKO joins with the police and Snowy Monaro Regional Council in calling for people to slow down on their trip to the snow,” he says.
“Driving 10 kilometres an hour slower will only make the journey 10 to 15 minutes longer, but drivers can potentially avoid injuring native animals, and a hefty excess on their car insurance, and ruining their weekend.”
NRMA Insurance Research Director Robert McDonald warns NSW drivers to be on the lookout for wildlife, this June long weekend.
NRMA data shows Cooma is ranked eighth in the state for collisions with wildlife.
“In winter, animals are on the move looking for food at sunrise and sunset and combined with cooler weather conditions and reduced visibility, the chances of hitting an animal are more likely,” he says.
“Wildlife is unpredictable and can appear out of nowhere, so it’s important to slow down and be aware of your environment.
“If you see an animal on the road, remember to try and brake but not swerve to avoid a collision,” Mr McDonald says.
To report injured or orphaned wildlife call LAOKO on 6456 1313.
Words by Elena Guarracino of LAOKO