Sophie Sweet's Someplace When...
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Sophie was one of the first to purchase our map of Kangaroo Island that we drew to raise funds for the bushfires that tore through the beautiful South Australian island back in January.
For most of us around the world we watched on with fear and sadness, feeling helpless to do anything but raise the little money we could. Sophie was on the Island for a month as part of her 6th year veterinary placement at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in Parndana at the time. She was part of a team that was fundamental to the survival and rehabilitation of the Island’s koalas and other affected wildlife. Sophie’s family also has a house on the Island, so to say this was a distressing time would be an understatement.
Still, Sophie took the time to help raise awareness in another way, to promote and purchase our map of the Island, that raised just over $3,000 for the Mayoral Relief and Recovery Fund. I still remember the day I drew this map. I closed my shop as soon as I heard about the fires to get started, knowing it was the only way I could raise some much needed funds. As I passed my pencil over every town, farm, business and conservation park that could have been affected, I was heartbroken. My thoughts were and are with those who fought and who are recovering.
Now, nearly four months on, we talk to Sophie as she just came back from her first trip to the KI Wildlife Park since the bushfire recovery effort.
Sophie, you just got back from the Island, tell us what stage KI is at in their recovery?
From what I’ve seen, KI locals are a resilient bunch of people. First the devastating bushfires, then Covid-19 preventing people visiting the island for a much-needed post-fire tourist injection. Local business owners have pivoted their work in whatever way they can to get through the lull of Covid-19 while still in recovery mode from the fires.
As for the landscape, shiny new fences, sheep and cattle yards have replaced many that were ravaged in the fire, stunningly bright green shoots from trunks of charcoaled gums have emerged, new trees for koala habitat have been planted with plans underway for more, and the grass trees are sky high and thriving. But there’s still a long way to go for those who lost everything, and my heart goes out to them. Flinders Chase National Park has been described as a moonscape and only two of 60 gum plantations remain unaffected.
How are the rescued Koalas at the KI Wildlife Park?They’re doing really well! On my most recent visit, Dana Mitchell, owner of the park with her husband Sam, said the recovery and release rates were better than anticipated and no koalas at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park require further veterinary treatment.
Currently, there are some joeys awaiting release and some who are now permanent residents at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park due to injuries too severe to allow for successful release (such as Duke, who initially presented with such severe burns to his hind feet that he had bone exposure on multiple digits).
Tell us about your Someplace When…
KI was special to me before the fires but after having that experience where I was able to contribute to the wildlife recovery effort, and get to know more locals, it’s become even more so. There’s a real calmness and rugged serenity that is impossible to ignore. I love being reminded of that by having my Someplace When map hanging at home.
Where are your favourite spots on the Island that travellers might not know about?
Can’t give away too many secrets! But Pennington Bay is out-of-this-world beautiful. I wish I could surf to appreciate it even more. An invigorating swim in the clear, icy water on hot summer’s day or sitting on the rocks in winter with a coffee from the Beach Barista watching the perfect waves roll in, is very soothing.
Also, not a favourite thing, but tip for travellers- watch out for roos on the road, they’re like moths to a flame and absolutely everywhere at dusk/dark!
What do you love about your map of KI?
I love being reminded of the calmness and serenity I feel on the island which is mirrored in the colours and true depiction of every rugged coastline KI is known for. I also love that Jordan has personalised it by outlining my family’s holiday house on it. I want one in every room!
Kangaroo Island photos from @markelbourne @sarahbyden and @sophsweet