Buddy the baby pademelon was emaciated, starving and his organs were shutting down when wildlife carer Jill* was contacted for help.
- Animal rescue experts say well-meaning people can harm wildlife due to a lack of knowledge
- Experienced carers say to help orphaned animals, the “best thing to do is hand them over” to people with proper training
- Tasmanian wildlife have complex digestive systems and developmental requirements unlike common domestic pets
But rather than surrender the joey into proper care that night, the person who found him on a Tasmanian roadside in his mother’s pouch and took him home for a week, refused because the children wanted to keep the joey for another night.
The next morning when the carer came calling, it was too late.
By the time the family decided to hand him on, he was past saving, she said.
“It’s incredibly selfish behavior by people to keep a joey, a wildlife creature that needs specialist feeding, specialist care, for someone to keep it, the wildlife always pays the price.
The Animal Rescue Cooperative said Buddy’s story was sadly not uncommon.
The organization has taken to social media to share the stories of wildlife “misguided members of the public selfishly choose to keep the household pets, always causing 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 from a member of the public.
After three months in care, he’s nearly doubled in weight but will never live in the wild again.
“He’s less than a quarter of the size he should be so for him to be released now would ultimately be a death sentence,” his carer Michelle said.
Pademelon Tessa had never been outside until she was surrendered to Michelle.
By that stage she was at least six months old and was still having bottles, using a kitty litter tray and her muscles hadn’t developed properly from not being let out to hop.
Suzy Nethercott-Watson is Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary’s chief operations officer and has been a wildlife carer for the past 20 years.
She said the sanctuary often received animals that had been kept as pets, and suffered serious health problems.
“A lot of our wildlife are animals that have a very complex gut system.
“Pademelons or Bennett’s wallabies for example are part of a macropod family that have a form of digestion that’s really complex, and if they’re not getting the right food, their guts won’t develop in the right way, and they’ll be compromised for a long period of time.
“They’re also really stressed by being in a human situation, and unfortunately, they won’t show us that stress, because in the wild it’s important for them not to show that they’re weak in any way, so they often don ‘t show the stress they are actually experiencing.”
Ms Nethercott-Watson said there wasn’t enough awareness about laws surrounding keeping wildlife as pets.
“Through the legislation you actually need to be licensed to be a wildlife carer and look after these animals,” she said.
In a statement a spokesperson from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania said while it “may be tempting for some people to care for an animal themselves, it is best looked after by an approved wildlife rehabilitator with the experience, skills, capacity and appropriate facilities to rehabilitate the animal for release back into the wild”.
“Members of the public 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 assisting in the development of a sector-led Wildlife Rehabilitation Sector Strategy that will improve community capacity and the longer-term sustainability of the sector “.
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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