Australian Capital Territory Wildlife fields 2000 calls for help in the animal rescue service’s first year

March 27, 2015 – 11:30PM

Clare Colley

Reporter at The Canberra Times

A tiny swamp wallaby joey rescued by ACT Wildlife.

A tiny swamp wallaby joey rescued by ACT Wildlife. Photo: Rohan Thomson

At just 400 grams a five-month-old swamp wallaby would appear to have no chance up against a car travelling at speed.

But nestled in the safety of a pouch the tiny wallaby picked up by rangers on Coulter Drive Belconnen defied the odds and survived when his mother was killed by the car.

“The pouches are an amazing thing, [the car] killed the mother but there’s the baby inside,” ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey said.

Mandy Conway with a ACT Wildlife rescued swamp wallaby joey at her home.

Mandy Conway with a ACT Wildlife rescued swamp wallaby joey at her home. Photo: Rohan Thomson

“He had one little scratch on one foot.”

The swamp wallaby was just one of hundreds of animals rescued and cared for by volunteers from ACT Wildlife in its first full year of operation.

In the past 15 months the group’s emergency hotline fielded about 2000 calls from people  seeking assistance or information about caring for injured wildlife.

“The only other organisation is the RSPCA and they’re referring a lot of calls to us now,” Ms Peachy said.

Birds are the most common animal the group cares for followed by possums, reptiles and macropods.

Dog and cat attacks remain the biggest threat for wildlife, Ms Peachy said, followed by car strikes.

“A lot of birds just fly into windows because they see the sky reflected,” she said.

“All those things are really human induced and that’s why I think we have an obligation as a community to try and right the wrongs.”

Possums, one of the ACT’s most divisive wildlife inhabitants, are among the group’s most frequently rescued animals.

“40 per cent hate [possums] and 60 per cent like them,” Ms Peachy said.

“But even if you don’t like them and you find something injured you’ve got to do something about it.”

Other controversial animals, flying foxes, also often need care when, like birds, they become tangled in fruit tree netting.

“I’m a flying fox advocate, I think they’ve had really bad press up north,” Ms Peachy said.

“Flying foxes are mammals, they’re endearing animals, they’re intelligent… they quieten down really quickly because they have horrific injuries.”

The group has species’ co-ordinators which take on the care of groups of similar animals with most, especially flock animals like birds, rehabilitating better in groups.

At its peak last year the group had about 120 members and is still tracking well with about 85 continuing in 2015.

More are expected to join when training begins including wildlife first aid and specific courses covering everything from possums to reptiles.

“We spend half the time talking about orphans that need specialist care because it’s the first time they’re away from their mother,” Ms Peachy said.

For people interested in helping, but unable to take on a role as a carer, Ms Peachy said the group was on the lookout for volunteers with all sorts of skills from making possum boxes, manning the 24/7 emergency hotline, raising funds, organising events, writing fact sheets and transport.

Later this year the group plans to branch out into education with school programs.

“Schools are asking for people to come and talk, we just have been focusing on caring for animals at the moment and we are at capacity doing that,” Ms Peachy said.

“We are expanding everything as efficiently and quickly as we can.”

The group relies on fund-raising, but has also been able to secure grants from the ACT Herpetological Association and the ACT government.

“We need that money to pay for the phone, pay for the specialist food, insurance and all those things,” she said.

For more information visit the ACT Wildlife website

Source : The Canberra Times

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