Wildlife rescue

Nellie, our Canadian wwoofer, has expressed an interest in working with wildlife.

At the last craft markets at the Old Brewery there was a stall for the Wildlife Information Rescue & Education Service (WIRES) and we chatted to them about their work.

WIRES is the major wildlife rescue group in our state of New South Wales. It’s run by volunteers, who get calls at all hours to rescue injured animals, to treat them and rehabilitate them to the wild.

Later, I rang up the local WIRES number and spoke to their co-ordinator Jenny.

Jenny invited Nellie to visit her, to find out about the work of WIRES. So I took Nellie out there yesterday.

Jenny lives in a fabulous old converted church, north of Goulburn. She specialises in rehabilitating birds, and currently has a recovering magpie and a mudlark (or “peewee”).

Typically a call comes in, and WIRES has a roster of duty officers. These people then ring around their network to find somebody who can collect the injured animal — and the volunteers need training to do this. To work with some animals, like snakes, you require additional training — fair enough really. Some animals can be quite dangerous — like snakes and some injured kangaroos.

Once collected, the animal is referred to co-ordinators who specialise in each type of animal. I gather this is usually over the phone, where the WIRES volunteer will explain the nature of the injury and the expert will decide what’s to be done. Many of the local vets are willing to help with the initial review, at reasonable hours. If necessary, the animal then goes to another volunteer who can look after it until recovery and release.

It is very common to get baby marsupials, where the mother has been killed by a vehicle. The babies require special milk formulas, changing as they get older, which takes a lot of volunteer time and considerable expense.

Naturally, WIRES is always in need of volunteers. Jenny noted that as we live at the junction of the Hume and Federal highways, and they have no collectors around there, we could be a great help to the organisation, and of course gave us every encouragement to become involved. So I’m thinking about doing the WIRES training course. We might have some scope to look after birds, but the mammals do sound like a lot of work.

Nellie was fascinated by the whole process, and the peculiarities of Australian wildlife. I understand that she’s planning to visit some wildlife refuges in other state. Hopefully she can build on these experiences in future.

I am somewhat troubled by the issues involved with very common animals, such as kangaroos and brushtail possums and magpies. It’s sad to think about an orphaned animal, however it’s likely to be released into an area with plenty of animals who have limited food and established territories. The farmers certainly won’t thank you for releasing kangaroos and wombats into new areas. Will have to think some more on that one.

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