Tasmania’s ‘fractured’ wildlife protection system and lack of carers are to blame for the suffering sick, injured or orphaned animals.
- Tasmania and the New South Wales Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) are working to place injured wildlife with caregivers
- However, there are not enough caregivers to meet the demand
- Tasmania’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Sector Strategy and Action Plan aims to help build capacity
Last year, the Tasmanian government partnered with NSW’s Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) to place injured and orphaned wild animals with carers.
Injured wild animals are reported at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Brighton, north of Hobart, and once the injuries are cleared, WIRES contacts a carer to help the animal rehabilitate.
North of Launceston, director of the Kanamaluka Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Jessica O’Connor, said pressure was mounting on overworked carers to take in more wildlife, sometimes from great distances from their residence.
Ms O’Connor said caregivers often felt under extreme pressure from WIRES.
“If no one picks up the animal because no one accepts the call or the message on the app, it will be euthanized,” she said.
“We have seen many more wild animals being cared for by carers who have had too many animals cared for and have not been able to care for them, and they are often malnourished and underweight. , or dehydrated, or they have just been kept in less than ideal conditions.”
Ms O’Connor said wildlife had also waited too long with unqualified people.
“Members of the public came to me in tears because a possum was in pain under their care, or an animal was in pain under their care, and they didn’t know what to do with it,” she said.
By the time the animals arrive at the center, they often have to be euthanized.
Ms O’Connor said WIRES bit off more than he could chew in Tasmania but was ultimately not to blame.
“Probably WIRES is doing its best, but the fact that it’s a continental organization and they don’t understand the state that they’re trying to put wildlife in has created a lot of problems,” a- she declared.
“I think they have vastly underestimated the lack of caregivers and the amount of animals that are arriving regularly.
“You have a really fractured system that isn’t cohesive and doesn’t work together.
“The state government must step up.”
Essential local knowledge
Sheffield Veterinary Clinic owner Michael Reilly said the deployment was initially “horrible”.
“[WIRES] didn’t always get back to us, they weren’t always able to organize something in a reasonable time frame,” he said.
In one case, he was put in touch with a carer in Huonville, four hours from his clinic.
Dr Reilly said some animals had been waiting overnight.
“[Wildlife have] learned to avoid dogs and cats and run away, and so, as a result, they stress a lot,” he said.
“It’s a known thing, especially in wallabies, but in many wild animals they can stress themselves to death.
“No veterinary clinic apart from Bonorong veterinary clinic is set up for wildlife.”
Although Dr. Reilly said WIRES operations could have improved, he sidestepped it, bringing in local caregivers.
“It’s a commentary on the system,” he said.
Dr Reilly said local knowledge was needed to coordinate wildlife care in Tasmania.
The old system didn’t work
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary director Greg Irons said the old system was not working.
Until WIRES began offering round-the-clock assistance, Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment placed the animals with carers, relying on Bonorong for after-hours assistance. .
Mr Irons said the department has been unable to dedicate the time and resources needed for wildlife care, including after-hours support.
“There are some teething issues at the moment, and collectively it’s quite exhausting at times, and I feel like there’s a real mountain to climb, but in my mind it’s also a necessary evil that needs to be addressed to make it better. it has to be,” he said.
“What’s so difficult about this is that when animals’ lives are at stake, any errors must be absolutely minimised, to ensure that we don’t see any welfare issues and that the animals don’t not getting the care they need.”
Mr Irons also said the crux of the problem was the lack of caregivers.
“We do everything we can”: WIRES
Jenny Thomson, head of WIRES’ rescue office, confirmed industry beliefs that delays were usually due to a lack of carers.
The WIRES app has built-in escalations, first alerting volunteers in the immediate area, before expanding overseas.
With a few caregivers at full capacity and training requirements varying by species, there were often few options.
“We try to keep it local, so if we can avoid those long-distance transports for an animal, that’s the best case scenario,” Ms Thomson said.
“We are doing everything we can to place these animals in an appropriate long-term caregiver.”
WIRES is rolling out training programs to help increase the capacity of caregivers across the state.
It recently announced additional funding of $2.17 million to support Tasmanian wildlife rehabilitation efforts.
Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer said the government has allocated $460,000 over four years to support services for injured and orphaned wildlife across the state.
Ms Palmer said she would support the Wildlife Rehabilitation Sector Strategy and Action Plan 2022-24.
“A key priority of the strategy is the recruitment, retention and development of rehabilitation workers and mentors,” she said.
Asked if she would consider bringing WIRES or an equivalent service to Tasmania, Ms Palmer said the government would always work with interested providers to support wildlife services in the state.
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