Authors: Bindi Irwin
Copyright Â© Australia Zoo 2010
Cover photograph Â© Australia Zoo
Cover and internal design by Christabella Designs
Cover and internal design Â© 2011 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
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The characters and
events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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First published by Random House Australia in 2010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
Source of Production: Versa Press, East Peoria, IL, USA
Date of Production: April 2011
Run Number: 14964
“I spyâ¦a blue-tongue lizard!” cried Bindi, turning to her best friend, Rosie, and holding up her palm. “High-five, mate!”
The girls high-fived, giggling with excitement.
“That makes the score seven to us and six to Richard. We are so going to win!” continued Bindi. The friends turned triumphantly to Rosie's dad, Richard, who was walking up the bush track behind them.
“There's an old saying, girls: don't count your chickens before they hatch,” cautioned Richard. “In any case, unless you know the animal's scientific name, it doesn't count.” He smiled, then strode past the girls, making his way farther up the mountain.
“That's not fair!” Bindi couldn't believe it. She had thought she and Rosie would finally beat Richard in a game of I Spy Wildlife.
“Dad, you're just trying to cheat because we're winning,” said Rosie as she caught up to her father, with Bindi close behind.
“Two against one isn't fair either, but you don't see me accusing anyone of cheating.” Richard looked at his daughter with a twinkle in his eye. “Nor do I think you really saw a rare spotted eagle about an hour ago. But as we have no video referee, I'll have to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
Richard walked on, oblivious to the two friends exchanging glances and smiling. Was there anything Richard didn't know about animals? Some families played the regular game of I Spy but the Irwin and Bellamy families preferred their own animal-specific version. After all, they'd had lots of practice!
On this early morning, the three keen walkers were hiking up Mount Ngungun in the Glass House Mountains near Australia Zoo. It was one of Bindi's favorite things to do. She loved being outside and seeing animals in the wild. Bindi also loved hanging out with Rosie and Richard. Rosie's dad was strong and athletic and always up for anything. He especially liked to win at games and never lost on purpose to save hurt feelings. No, he was ruthless in his animal spotting and it made Bindi and Rosie all the more determined to beat him!
Bindi raced on and soon overtook Richard. She figured that if she and Rosie reached the lookout before him, they might have more chance of spotting animals. His height definitely put him at an advantage for seeing birds.
“Wait for me!” called Rosie as she caught up with Bindi. The two girls puffed as they scrambled toward the lookout. “Come on, Dad!”
“Good things come to those who wait!” said Richard as he continued on leisurely.
It was already a very hot day and the last steep push to the top was hard going. Bindi could feel the sweat trickling down her arms, her legs, and the back of her neck. They couldn't have done the hike any later on a day like this. They would risk heat exhaustion and dehydration, not to mention having zero chance of seeing any animalsâthey'd all have sensibly found refuge in the shade.
The girls were out of breath and red-faced by the time they reached the lookout. They both took big swigs from their water bottles.
“Look!” Bindi pointed to the other peak in the distance. “Mount Tibrogargan looks just like King Kong!” The two friends marveled at the view of the majestic mountain peak to the east. They could see the sun coming up behind it, over the Pacific Ocean.
“Wow, it's really windy up here!” said Rosie, looking at the trees bending in the wind. It wasn't a refreshing breeze either, but a warm, blustery one.
Bindi spun around, taking in the view of the surrounding bush and mountain peaks. Something to the west caught her eye. “Oh no!”
“What is it?” asked Rosie and turned to see where Bindi was looking.
Bindi silently pointed into the distance.
The stunning view was obscured by a thick haze of smoke. The friends stared at each other in dismay.
Richard finally approached the top. His face and neck were wet with sweat. “What a day! It's got to be over 80 degrees already and it's only 8 a.m.” He mopped his face.
“Dad, we've got some bad news,” said Rosie.
Richard laughed. “Don't tell me, you've just seen three more animals and won the game?” He chuckled. “I can take defeat gracefully.”
Rosie pointed, and Richard turned to stare at the thick mass of smoke. Even as they watched, it grew darker and spread farther across the national park. The high temperatures and strong westerly winds were fanning the flames of a fire.
“Oh dear.” Richard's expression was serious.
As head vet at the Australian Wildlife Hospital, Richard was well aware that a fire in this kind of bush could mean hundreds of displaced and injured animals, to say nothing of threatening the homes and property of people who lived in the area.
He turned to the friends with a grim expression on his face. “We'd better hurry back, girls. It'll be all hands on deck at the wildlife hospital.” Richard took one last look at the fire and turned to make his way down the path at a brisk pace.
Bindi and Rosie hurried after the vet. All thoughts of their earlier game had vanished. The sooner they got to the hospital the better!
The Australian Wildlife Hospital was already humming with activity when the Bellamys and Bindi arrived. The staff was busy on the phones, and nurses moved rapidly down corridors. Richard disappeared almost immediately. He had plenty to do.
Rosie and Bindi had spent hours helping out at the hospital and knew what needed to be done in an emergency like this. The friends made their way toward the laundry. The staff would need plenty of extra bandages and clean towels folded and stacked at the ready. The girls worked quickly. After they had created a good stockpile of materials, they were eager to find more ways to help out.
Bindi was always amazed by the size of the hospital. There was a nursery for the baby animals, consultation rooms, treatment rooms, operating rooms, an intensive care unit, a pathology department, a pharmacy where all the medication was held, a staff room, and a kitchen. Richard was the main vet but there were six others who worked full-time in the hospital, loads of nurses, administration staff, and a huge number of volunteers, which the hospital depended on in order to survive. The hospital was open 24 hours a day and its policy was to never turn away an animal in need. It was a massive operation!
The girls found Richard and a couple of other staff members busily creating extra space in the conference room for animal patients.
Bindi shook her head in disbelief. “Do you really think we'll get this many injured animals?”
Richard shrugged. “Hopefully not, but it's better to be prepared. We won't have time to do this later on.”
Richard's mobile rang. “Dr. Bellamy speaking.” As Richard listened to the caller, he pulled out two bottles of water from a fridge and passed one to each of the girls.
“Got that. We've been waiting for your call. Thanks.” Richard ended the phone call and slipped his mobile into his back pocket. Grabbing a few more bottles of water, he said, “Drink up, girls. You'll need to keep your fluids up. That was our official call to action.”
The hospital was sending rescue teams to treat the animals that had been pulled from the fire. The animals would be given on-the-spot treatment before being brought back to the hospital. Bindi couldn't believe it! She would be going out on site to help animals right at the time they needed it most.
Richard rushed down the hospital corridor, heading for the rescue vehicle. Bindi and Rosie didn't need any more encouragement. “Animal rescue, here we come!”
With Richard at the wheel, Rosie and Bindi joined Tracy, a vet nurse, and Tanya and Joe, two volunteer carers, in the back of the van. Pretty soon they were out on the open road. The trees flashed past as they drove deeper into the national park.
As the van approached the fire, the smell of smoke grew stronger. Bindi coughed and her eyes started to sting. She squinted out the window at the charred bush to the side of the road. “It looks so awful,” she whispered. The others nodded their agreement.
When they finally pulled up in a clearing, it felt as if they were very close to the fire; it was incredibly hot and ash swirled in the fierce wind. Bindi was glad they had brought so much extra drinking water. She already felt thirsty again.
A few tents had been hastily erected as a rest area for firefighters. People were shouting orders, massive pieces of fire-fighting equipment were being dragged this way and that, and there was so much smoke in the air that it was difficult to see.
Their small group gathered around Richard. “We can't go any closer to the fire; we leave that job to the professionals. This is an area where the firefighters can bring out any injured animals. Once we've looked them over and made them as comfortable as possible, we'll shuttle the animals back to the hospital.”
Richard pointed to a small tent to the side. “We can set up our kit over here. The tent gives the animals some shade, which is vital. One of our first jobs will be to lower their body temperatures.”
It didn't take long to unpack their emergency kit and get set up. Almost immediately, two animals were brought over for treatment. One was a little blue-tongue lizard with minor skin burns. Tracy took care of him by bathing him in cool water.
The other injured animal was a koala. He had large fluffy ears and a cute oversized nose. Even though he was hurt and distressed, Bindi thought he was the cutest, fattest koala she had ever seen. She was going to pay special attention to this little guy!
The firefighter who brought over the koala looked exhausted, and his face was smeared with black soot. Bindi quickly grabbed one of their water bottles and passed it to him. He nodded his thanks.
“Got our work cut out for us with this one, that's for sure,” he grunted. “Terrible winds.”
Bindi asked, “What's it like out there?”
The large man sighed. “It's not good. Hot and dangerous. But you know,” he added, almost as an afterthought, “sometimes you can hold back the flames and then you really feel like you've made a difference.” With that comment he was off again, running back toward the fire.
Bindi thought about his words. She understood what he was talking about. Making a difference was what her family was all about.
Bindi and Rosie helped Richard hold the koala on the table while Richard injected him with some medicine to calm him down. He then put Bindi in charge of applying cooling pads to the koala's wounds. He explained that the koala had second-degree burns, which meant there was blistering on the skin. It was a serious injury. Richard looked worried.
As the poor creature became more sedated, Bindi was able to stroke his fur and talk gently to him. “Don't worry, little fella. We'll take good care of you. Everything will be okay.”