By Margaret Maccoll
Baby possums and wallabies accompanied more than 100 wildlife carers who came from across the Sunshine Coast for a training day with one of Australia’s leading wildlife veterinarians Dr Howard Ralph.
Dr Ralph is a medical doctor, anaesthetist and veterinarian who operates the Southern Cross wildlife clinic and hospital.
“I treat everybody. I make no differentiation between one species or another. The same principles apply to all species,” he said.
Dr Ralph told carers the assessment of sick or injured wildlife was a critical and ongoing step in determining the outcome for sick or injured wildlife.
“You may be called out in the night to an urgent situation. Often you’re the first responder. The wildlife may be dehydrated, cold, bleeding. Maybe it can’t breathe. It might have been hit by a car and have fractures,” he said.
“I’ve seen some horror and not all accidental. There’s some cruelty out there.”
Dr Ralph said immobilising fractured limbs or wings, keeping wildlife contained to reduce further injury and pain relief were among important measures.
“Thirty years ago people thought they’re wildlife they don’t feel pain,” he said.
“We know that’s not true. People have come to understand they are like every living creature and feel pain.
“A big deal with wildlife is stress management and a lot of that is pain management. The good thing is we can do something about that.”
Dr Ralph has walked bushlands following fires, destruction paths following cyclones and roadsides to treat injured.
He advised the carers to be aware of the dangers of any situation.
“I’ve lost at least one friend whose been smashed on the road while caring for wildlife,” he said.
The day-long workshop was attended by all Wildlife Volunteers Association (WILVOS) carers.
WILVOS chair Sylvia Whiting said education was of such importance to carers the organisation regularly organised training and covered the costs.
Wildlife carer Rachel Aspinall brought along a red-necked kangaroo joey, named Karlie, and a wallaby joey called Gemma. Both had been in their mothers’ pouches when the mothers were struck by cars and killed. One incident was on the Kenilworth-Eumundi Road and the other in Hervey Bay.
“Luckily someone looked in the pouch,” she said.
The young macropods require four-hourly feeds. Karlie was pink, without fur and weighed only 150gm when she arrived. She is now over 2kg and will stay with Rachel for 18 months until she is released.
Gemma will stay for about 13 months.
Cassie Bradley came to the training session with a common brushtail possum of about three months of age. She was found by a local in a tree alone at Pomona, weighing only 140gm and brought to a vet who called Cassie. The possum now weighs 200gm and will be released in about six months.
For more information visit www.wilvos.org.au