Buddy the baby pademelon was emaciated, starving, and his organs were shutting down when conservationist Jill* was asked for help.
Most important points:
- Animal rescue experts say well-meaning people can harm wildlife through lack of knowledge
- Experienced caretakers say to help orphans, the “best thing you can do is hand them over” to people with the right education
- Tasmanian wildlife has complex digestive systems and developmental requirements, unlike common pets
But instead of turning the joey over to proper care that night, the person who found it in his mother’s pouch on a Tasmanian road and took it home for a week, because the children refused to give the joey another wanted to keep the night.
When the caretaker called the next morning, it was too late.
By the time the family decided to hand him over, he was beyond saving, she said.
“It’s incredibly selfish behavior on the part of people to keep a joey, an animal in the wild that needs specialist nutrition and specialist care, and for someone to keep it, the wildlife always pays the price.
The Animal Rescue Cooperative said Buddy’s story wasn’t uncommon, unfortunately.
The organization has used social media to share the stories about wildlife “misleading members of the public selfishly choose to keep as pets, which always causes suffering and usually a tragic outcome for those animals”.
At the age of six months, George weighed less than a can of Coke when he was seized by a member of the public.
After three months of care, it has almost doubled in weight, but it will never live in the wild again.
“He is less than a quarter of the size he should be, so if he is released now it would end up being the death penalty,” said his caretaker Michelle.
Pademelon Tessa had never been outside until she was handed over to Michelle.
At the time, she was at least six months old and still had bottles, used a litter box, and her muscles hadn’t developed properly because she hadn’t been let outside to jump.
Suzy Nethercott-Watson is the chief operations officer of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and has been a conservationist for the past 20 years.
She said the shelter often received animals that had been kept as pets and had serious health problems.
“Many of our wildlife are animals with very complex gut systems.
“For example, Pademelons or Bennett’s wallabies are part of a macropod family that has a very complex form of digestion, and if they’re not fed the right food, their guts won’t develop properly, and for a while they will compromised for a long time.
“They are also very stressed because they are in a human situation, and unfortunately they will not show us that stress because in the wild it is important for them not to show that they are weak in any way. , so they often don’t. don’t show the stress they’re actually experiencing.”
Ms Nethercott-Watson said there was insufficient awareness about the laws surrounding the keeping of wild animals as pets.
“By law, you actually have to be licensed to be a zookeeper and take care of these animals,” she said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania said that while it may be tempting for some people to look after an animal themselves, it is best cared for by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the experience. , skills, capacity and appropriate facilities to rehabilitate the animal for return to the wild”.
“Residents who find sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife should contact Bonorong Wildlife Rescue on 0447 264 625 (all hours, statewide).”
The spokesperson said the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania has developed Best Practice guidelines for wildlife rehabilitation and is “currently helping to develop an industry-focused wildlife rehabilitation sector strategy that will enhance community capacity and the long-term sustainability of the sector.” term will improve.”.
More information about injured and orphaned wildlife and becoming a wildlife rehabilitator is available on the department’s website.
* Names have been changed.
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