What you can do to protect our country’s wildlife

What you can do to protect our country’s wildlife
We’re so lucky to have the koala as one of our native animals.

Australia’s wildlife is some of the most unique and diverse in the world.

From the sweet koala to the curious platypus to the hopping kangaroo, we’re supremely lucky to share a home with so many wonderful animals.

But when natural disasters strike, the habitats of our beloved creatures is at risk. The recent bushfires have seen an estimated one billion animals perish, and even more victim to some horrific injuries.

As the conversation turns to how the public can preserve and protect our wildlife for many more years to come, we wanted to share some tips on how you can help native animals in your local area.

What to do if you see an injured animal

If you come across a native animal who appears to be distressed or injured, you should immediately call a local wildlife rescue like WIRES or Sydney Wildlife.

  • WIRES contact number: 1300 094 737
  • Sydney Wildlife contact number: (02) 9413 4300

Each of these lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to the operator, relay what you’ve seen and follow instructions.

If you are instructed to take an animal to a local veterinary clinic or hospital, safely cover him with a towel and transfer him to a box. Remember to keep the following in mind:

  • Where was the animal found?
  • How was the animal behaving when found?

Relay this information to the carer or veterinarian, as well as your contact details and any other relevant observations. Take pictures if time permits.

This will help the animal get the most immediate, accurate and necessary treatment required.

According to WIRES, snakes, bats and flying foxes, monitor lizards, large macropods (kangaroos and wallabies) and raptors (eagles, falcons or hawks) should never be handled by the public and must be rescued by trained handlers.

Should you be feeding wildlife?

The RSPCA does not advise giving food to wildlife as this can “make them sick, get them too used to humans and change their natural behaviours”. In the wake of natural disasters like fire and drought, local authorities and wildlife groups will already be working to provide help to native animals, so there’s no need to intervene by providing food of your own. If you are concerned about a particular animal, you can contact your local wildlife group on the numbers above.

What you can do, however, is leave shallow bowls of water around for animals to use. Bowls should be placed at varying ground levels (including in trees) with a rock in the middle or a ramp of sticks so the animal has a way in and out, if needed. Make sure the container is not metal (as it will get too hot) and clean it thoroughly before use.  

What’s involved in becoming a wildlife carer?

What you can do to protect our country’s wildlife
Injured flying fox currently in foster care.

If you’d like to make a more hands-on impact on our wildlife, you can look into volunteering as a wildlife carer. Dedicated wildlife groups like WIRES and Sydney Wildlife regularly recruit and train volunteer carers. Currently, RSPCA NSW does not have a wildlife foster care program.

Practice Manager of the RSPCA Sydney Veterinary Hospital, Deanna Sorensen, has been a carer with Sydney Wildlife for 16 years.

“Caring for wildlife involves a lot of time, patience and compassion,” she says. Along with the challenge of juggling full-time work with caring, Deanna says you also have to consider the cost of food, medicine and equipment too.

What you can do to protect our country’s wildlife
This flying fox was injured after getting caught in tree netting.

Deanna has cared for many different animals over the years. Currently, she’s fostering a flying fox who got caught in netting and brought into the RSPCA Sydney Shelter by our inspectors.

She says getting stuck in netting is a common rescue situation for our flying foxes and bats as most people don’t put proper netting on their fruit trees, causing them to get tangled and severely injured. If you do wish to use netting on your trees, RSPCA NSW advocates using ones that are densely woven and have a mesh size of less than one centimetre. If you do put up netting, you should regularly ensure that no animals have gotten caught.

How else can you help our wildlife?

Just because you’re not a dedicated volunteer wildlife carer, it doesn’t mean you’re not in a position to make an impact on our native animals.

“The hands-on caring of native wildlife is not the only way to contribute,” Deanna says.

“Caring for our wildlife comes in many forms: donating pillow cases for marsupial pouches, sewing bat wraps for flying foxes, delivering medical supplies to fire-ravaged areas across the country, knitting mittens and booties for burned paws, fundraising, leaving drinking water available during the extreme heat episodes.”

Even just being mindful about how you interact with your local environment is immensely helpful. For example, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services advises visitors to think twice about picking up sticks when they walk through their parks. This is because sticks, leaves and other types of vegetation are used by wildlife to make nests and forage so taking it away can cause a negative effect on their daily habits.  

If you have a cat, keeping them indoors is an easy and effective way to protect local wildlife too.

“We are all wildlife carers in our own way.” Too true! Every one of us can make a difference on our native animals.