Wildlife Victoria

On call to help native wildlife

Have you ever come across an injured animal and wondered how to help? Perhaps it was a kangaroo laying on the side of the road after being hit by a vehicle? Or a magpie with a broken wing? Or a possum stuck in a gutter? At the Emergency Response Service at Wildlife Victoria, we're here to help you and the local community in these distressing situations. Every day, we receive calls from members of the public throughout Victoria noticing animal suffering, and wanting assistance to find the best possible solution for these critters. As you can imagine, factors such as increased urbanisation mean that more and more animals come in contact with humans and end up in need of help as a direct result of these interactions.

A Rainbow Lorikeet after a collision with a window in Melbourne's CBD.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

A Rainbow Lorikeet after a collision with a window in Melbourne's CBD. Image: Elodie Camprasse

Wildlife Victoria is a state-wide, not-for-profit organisation that relies on donations to help reduce the suffering of injured, sick or orphaned native animals, including a range of birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians. We rely on a network of dedicated volunteers: 1,500 rescuers and carers throughout Victoria carry out this huge task. This year alone, we received a staggering 77,364 requests for assistance, and, in fact, 80% of these originated from the Melbourne metropolitan area.

You can probably guess what our most rescued species are, as they’re most likely the ones you come across the most. Kangaroos make up about a fifth of all of our rescues and are number one on our list, most of the time because they’ve been hit by vehicles, or have been displaced from their habitat. Ringtail possums, which have adapted to a wide range of habitats and are commonly seen in suburbia, are second on the top five rescued species list, with collisions with vehicles, pet attacks, and encounters within buildings being the most common causes for concern. Ducks make up for about 10% of our cases, as they’re often seen crossing busy roads, especially in spring, or are negatively impacted by rubbish. Brushtail possums and magpies require our attention in 5% of cases, with issues such as pet attacks, collisions with vehicles, and babies found out of their nests.    

An Eastern Grey Kangaroo trapped on the roof of a shopping centre in Doncaster.  Image: Wildlife Victoria

An Eastern Grey Kangaroo trapped on the roof of a shopping centre in Doncaster. Image: Wildlife Victoria

If you’re ever been in need of assistance and have called the service, you’ll know that our phone lines are busy throughout the day, with an average of 200 phone calls keeping us occupied each day, as well as webcases directly logged on our website. When you call, you will get to talk to one of our trained Emergency Response Operators, who will first gather all the relevant details for the case before deciding what the best way to help is. We provide advice and information whenever the case is regarding a non-native, or introduced species, or when sending a rescuer is not necessary. As it's not legal to release non-native species back into the wild and our organisation has limited resources, we cannot attend to these animals.

Some cases require no more than monitoring the situation without having to take the animal away from its natural habitat, or small actions people without knowledge of our native wildlife can take, such as making a fake nest for a bird that could have been found on the ground.

Most times and if possible, it’s better for the animal’s welfare to take it to the nearest vet clinic where they will be assessed, free of charge. When we ascertain that an animal needs to be rescued, we contact our network of amazing and hard-working everyday superheroes to organise rescues. They are the ones that like to get their hands dirty and are trained and experienced to handle these situations. All rescuers are volunteers and provide assistance on top of their day job and busy everyday lives. Whether the situation requires them to check the pouch of a marsupial that has been found dead on the side of the road, catch a parrot with a contagious disease, or pick up a lizard that has been injured by a pet cat or dog, they're here to help and their energy and passion will hopefully inspire you to help our native wildlife even more.

A rescuer holding a Common Brushtail Possum.  Image: Wildlife Victoria

A rescuer holding a Common Brushtail Possum. Image: Wildlife Victoria

Once animals have been rescued, they're taken to a vet clinic; here, they will be assessed and treated, free of charge. Vet clinics are a critical link in the rehabilitation process as they're the first point of call to provide a bit of relief for injured and distressed animals. Vets allow us to know whether animals will be able to make it and should be transferred to a rehabilitation facility. They provide important information such as the weight and sex of marsupials before they go to care so they can be buddied up with another animal of similar characteristics, the progression of specific diseases and whether they can be treated, or the severity of specific wounds. Unfortunately, in cases where animals have been too severely injured or are too sick to be cured, the kindest option may be to humanely put them to sleep, as otherwise their quality of life would be compromised. Liaising with vets allows us to know which animals need rehabilitation and we often assist them in finding the right people to take them to. In some instances, particularly in rural areas, finding a vet nearby might be more challenging and we may contact a licenced carer directly to find these critters temporary homes.

A network of volunteer transporters helps link vets and carers when animals are fortunate enough to have a good prognosis and licensed carers have been found. Carers work tirelessly, looking after animals that might need feeds every couple of hours, which is the case for the smallest joeys as well as some birds. If you’re a parent, you can probably easily recall having a hungry newborn crying in the middle of the night to be fed. During some times of the year, this is the carer’s everyday life! Joey marsupials will stay with them for months, so they can grow from a critter that fits in the palm of your hand to a capable, hopping and self-feeding individual.

However, carers also receive animals that need monitoring for short periods of time to make sure they can be returned to the wild, to their territories and families. These carers rely on their extensive experience to give animals the best possible chance of surviving, allowing them to go back to their normal life in nature. As cute and cuddly as the feather and fur babies they receive are, their job is a tiring one and a full-time commitment. They are also the ones to organise releases back to the wild, in small steps so the animals are not too disoriented and can slowly readapt to being in the wild.    

Carer Emily Small feeding little wombats.  Image: Simon Markhof

Carer Emily Small feeding little wombats. Image: Simon Markhof

Making sure our wildlife are treated with respect, rescued professionally when needed, and rehabilitated with love and devotion involves a lot of effort and a lot of dedicated people. So if you see a native animal in distress or even if you’re not sure, call Wildlife Victoria on 13 000 94535, and we'll give you the advice you need or send someone to the rescue. 


Elodie Camprasse

Elodie came to Australia where she recently completed a PhD in seabird ecology at Deakin University, after studying marine biology in Europe. She is passionate about the natural world and its protection. She is also a dive instructor and Emergency Response Operator at Wildlife Victoria.

You can find her on Twitter at @ECamprasse.

Banner image courtesy of Wildlife Victoria.

It's time to spring into action!

Spring is upon us! Days are getting longer, the sun is shining, and we’re all slightly coming out of your winter’s torpor with a boost of energy. And so are the animals and plants around you. Blossoming trees surround you and awake your senses with their vibrant colours and smells; birds are getting out and about, busy accumulating nesting material and fighting for suitable habitat like tree hollows ahead of the breeding season; possums can be seen at night moving from tree to tree with little backriders, and macropods’ joeys might be seen waving hello from the comfort of their pouches. As you get outdoors more, you will most likely start noticing these critters, and some of you will witness their struggles to get by in environments such as busy cities.

A swamp wallaby joey taking a peek at the outside world from its mum's pouch.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

A swamp wallaby joey taking a peek at the outside world from its mum's pouch. Image: Elodie Camprasse

As good as it feels leaving cold and rainy days behind, spring puts an increased pressure on wildlife emergency response services as they try their best to address emergencies linked with this sudden buzzing of life. The good news is there are things you can do to help during this challenging time, in the areas you frequent every day. With spring comes an increased responsibility to help native wildlife get by, as Rowan Mott elegantly reminded us with his article “On death road”. If we are to keep the animals that surround us thriving, this is a crucial time to get involved.  As an emergency response operator for Victoria’s largest wildlife rescue organisation, there are pieces of advice I provide every day in spring to animal lovers that can’t stand to watch animals end up in dangerous and sometimes unexpected situations.

If you are a wildlife lover, you might have been excited about getting birds nesting in your yard, or in the parks you frequently enjoy. Little chicks can be blown out of nests in cases of bad weather, and left vulnerable at the bottom of trees. Unless they are injured, the best thing to do if accessible is to grab a container and poke a few holes at the bottom for drainage, put some leaves and twigs in it and secure the makeshift nest on the side of the nearest tree before putting the little ones back in there. That way, they will be off the ground and safe from predators but they will still be within sight and hearing distance of their parents, which will keep on caring for them as soon as they feel that it is safe to do so. This is the best chance of survival for these birds who still need their parents to feed them and teach them the necessary skills to survive in the wild, which cannot be replicated in care very well. Don’t worry about touching the nestlings, as the idea that the parents will abandon them if you do is actually a myth - birds have a terrible sense of smell and won’t be able to tell!

A magpie chick on the ground.  Image: Wildlife Victoria

A magpie chick on the ground. Image: Wildlife Victoria

A bit later in the season, you might come across “fluffy”, cheeky birds on the ground. They sometimes show inquisitive behaviours and approach humans as if “asking for help”, or keep on flapping their wings as if “distressed”. This behaviour is the equivalent of your morning work-out: they are building strength in their wing and chest muscle so they can get traction and take off. These are called fledglings and they need to be on the ground for periods of time, the lengths of which depend on the species and the availability of food. This is all part of their normal learning process as they learn to fly from the ground up. You may have noticed this behaviour in magpies, for example, as well as in miners and rainbow lorikeets, which are birds commonly found in urban and suburban areas.

The best thing to do, if the bird you come across is uninjured, is to let it be. Whether you notice or not, the parents are usually around keeping an eye on their little ones, teaching them how to navigate busy roads and avoid predators. Once again, their chance of survival is increased by being kept with their parents in their natural environments, as opposed to taking them to vets or carers. So now you know: no bird-knapping!   

You might have feared for duck families travelling from their nesting sites to the nearest body of water on busy roads and wished you could grab them all and relocate them to safety. As scary as it sounds, wildlife rescuers tend not to intervene unless they are injured, because they usually make the matter worse. Ducks can become stressed easily, and mother ducks can indeed run into traffic and get killed or altogether decide to abandon their fluffy ducklings because of the stress associated with an anticipated capture. Besides, the ducklings need to make the journey with their parents in order to learn which direction to go in and how to behave on the way.

A tawny frogmouth youngster cuddling with its parent.  Image: Nalini Scarfe

A tawny frogmouth youngster cuddling with its parent. Image: Nalini Scarfe

Birds are not the only ones that get in trouble during spring. Although joeys can be found in marsupials’ pouches at any time of the year, spring coincides with a peak of births and so it becomes even more crucial to check pouches of animals found dead on the side of the road. If you feel comfortable doing so, it is always a good idea to check that no fur baby is left behind, or to call a wildlife rescue group to do so. If dead animals have spray paint on their bodies, it means that the job has already been done.

Little possums are frequently found on the ground and, if the mum is nowhere to be found, should be picked up and kept warm so they don’t suffer from hypothermia. It is always a good idea in these cases to take the little ones to the nearest vet clinic or local shelter free of charge so they can be fed and kept alive. This way, they have a chance to be rehabilitated. At this stage, they are harmless and can easily be put in a box or wrapped up in a blanket.

A ringtail possum joey.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

A ringtail possum joey. Image: Elodie Camprasse

Lizards and echidnas are other animals that start becoming more active in spring and for which we start receiving more calls. They are usually basking in the sun or looking for food and if uninjured, should be left alone. It is encouraged to keep the disturbance associated with children and pets to a minimum so the animal feels safe enough that it can move around and find its way back to where it came from. Most calls we get about these animals are from people surprised to see them in suburban areas, but unless they are injured, we cannot legally move them, as we risk getting them lost. This is especially true for species such as echidnas, which could then be prevented from finding their way back to their burrow to take care of their babies.

The other reason why we get calls about these animals is pet attacks. At this time of year, responsible pet ownership is even more crucial than usual, as many harmless critters are out and about and are still learning who to trust and who to avoid. I would encourage you to keep pets inside, especially at night, or put a bell on their collar to avoid the deadly encounters we hear about too often.

The damage pets can do to native wildlife.  Image: Wildlife Victoria

The damage pets can do to native wildlife. Image: Wildlife Victoria

So as you can see, it’s time for you to spring into action and help wildlife! You can educate yourself and the people that surround you. If still in doubt, feel free to call a wildlife rescue group. Let’s work together to keep wildlife happy during this demanding time of the year. 

For more information on assisting native wildlife, please visit Wildlife Victoria's website or call them on (03) 8400 7300 to report a wildlife emergency.


Elodie Camprasse

Elodie came to Australia where she recently completed a PhD in seabird ecology at Deakin University, after studying marine biology in Europe. She is passionate about the natural world and its protection. She is also a dive instructor and Emergency Response Operator at Wildlife Victoria.

You can find her on Twitter at @ECamprasse.

Banner image courtesy of Elodie Camprasse.