It is a testament to the community’s concern for the plight of wildlife in need of help that we currently have several wildlife rescue helplines advertising their emergency phone services within our Region. The statewide helplines are Wildlife Victoria’s 24–hr emergency number Wildline, Help for Wildlife and RACV’s Wildlife Connect, while other regional rescue helplines are provided by Wildlife Rescue and Information Network, Wildlife Rescue Emergency Service, and Badgar. In our region all these services refer their animals in need of rescue and care to the Hepburn Wildlife Shelter and it’s network of trained volunteer rescuers.
Wildlife rescue is only a part of the broader and more demanding work of wildlife care. In Victoria all wildlife carers require permits licensed through the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Once an animal is rescued, a volunteer wildlife shelter needs to assess it and see that it receives the appropriate care. This may involve seeking specialist veterinary treatment and/or having it in care for days, weeks or months. Care of orphans may extend for over 2 years before the animal is fully rehabilitated and repatriated back into the wild.
The care of Australian wildlife requires specialised training and skill and is very differerent from raising domestic animals. A carer must have a specialised knowledge of wildlife natural history, diet, housing, nurturing and rehabilitation so they are adequately prepared to return to the wild. As a result wildlife shelter needs access to specialised facilities and equipment and to be skilled in delivering medical treatments.
A high degree of dedication is also required as the cost of this work is borne by the wildlife shelter. Wildlife shelters and their foster carers, who perform a kind of apprenticeship role for at least a year before qualifying for shelter status, suffer constant pressures of financial costs, time commitment, dedication and vigilance, and often suffer burnout or are over–run by land development. Most shelters must find room for all this in their own homes. As you can imagine it is far more difficult to recruit volunteers to the work of wildlife care.