Last weekend I released two of my five kangaroos, Matisse and Morgan, though sadly I was unable to release the others. This was because my third red Leonardo, although the same age as the others, wasn’t ready to go with them. Poor young Leo is an unusually antisocial being (a bit like myself really) but he shouldn’t be, because unlike me, he is a mob animal and needs to have the necessary skills to survive successfully as part of a group of the same species. Leo’s problem was that, after being orphaned, he was reared by a member of the public who had no training on how to rehabilitate wildlife. He was raised, however well intentionally, to be a member/pet of a human family and so he thinks he is human and even after four months in my care housed with the others of his own kind he still doesn’t act like a kangaroo. His rehabilitative journey is slow and his two eastern grey pen mates are obligingly laid back enough to forgo their release temporarily in order to assist in his re-education, but it is a long difficult haul for him and it never had to be that way.
When I talk to the general public about wildlife care (this is as opposed to trained wildlife rehabilitators) I often get the same story from them. They tell me how they had a ‘pet’ kangaroo when they were young, or their Mum tried to raise kangaroos but they always seemed to die after a short while, or that they raised the animal but then it got too big and aggressive when jumping around their house and on the settee whilst they were trying to watch TV. The ones that die fairly quickly tend to be the joeys that are not fed properly, either by giving them cow’s milk, which means they die in agony with their insides bleeding or when given ‘expensive’ milk formula they starve to death between random or sparse feeding times.
Even nowadays these unfortunate (from my perspective anyway) joeys once found, are kept far too long as a novelty or children’s play thing. If they are lucky they are handed to us once they’ve started to defecate over the lounge suite or worse get really sick and need a vet’s care.
Anyone who wants to be wildlife carer can be and it isn’t difficult to learn how to do the right thing by the animal. Training is straightforward, inexpensive (even the government permit is free in Queensland) and there is great support from local groups. All someone needs is the passion, time and a healthy dose of common sense.
Macropods are probably the biggest challenge with regard to time and expense, since they can be in care for up to 12 months, need the biggest pens and shelters, drink the most milk formula and need to be kept with others of the same species. I spend around $1000 per year on milk formula alone. My smaller joeys are usually on 5 to 4 feeds a day and the bigger penned ones 3 to 2, gradually being weened about a month before release to half a bottle every other day. Carers in Townsville are lucky as there are a small number of seriously wonderful vets who help us when our animals get sick or come in with injuries. These individuals don’t charge us for their time, just the base price for any medications that are required. They don’t have to help out in this way, they do this out of the goodness of their hearts. In return we appreciate everything they do for us and of course in turn we take all our domestic pets to them as a matter of loyalty.
Other wildlife needing care from snakes to fruit bats is less challenging, but the experience of caring for them once you are trained and have a permit is just as gratifying and gives you that stupendous feeling of achievement once they are ready to make their own way out there in the wild.
Anyone interested in finding out more about caring should visit their local wildlife care group and state government websites regarding this topic.
Samantha "I'm a person who feels I live in paradise and truly love Australia after immigrating here in 2003. I work as a foreign exchange trader, live with my true soul mate, husband Albert. I have a passion for Aussie wildlife and became a registered wildlife carer in 2005 and can say I feel truly privileged to be able to raise and rehabilitate orphan wallaby/kangaroo joeys. I love these creatures with my heart and soul. My dream is to be able to help struggling volunteer wildlife carers, financially, so that they can do what they do best without worrying how to pay the next vet bill"