In 2020, millions of people around the globe were horrified to see the suffering of Australian wildlife during the bushfires. Two years on, and many of the rescued kangaroos have now been slaughtered by commercial kangaroo shooters. Australian wildlife also continues to suffer and die due to car accidents, fencing, introduced diseases and animals.
The resulting destruction is left for the overwhelmed and despaired wildlife carers. While there is much joy in helping traumatised animals, for every success story there is more death and heartache. Strict government regulations and a tyrannical wildlife organisation are making the near impossible task of rescuing animals even harder.
For three months, I volunteered and photographed at a wildlife sanctuary, where every animal is given another chance at life. By sharing the stories of these animals, I hope to evoke concern and motivation to live in compassion with our fellow species.
Joeys, who are brought into the sanctuary as orphans or who have injured mothers, need to be fed with milk. Younger animals, who do not leave the pouch yet, need to be fed every few hours, while older joeys receive milk twice a day. The drink consists of milk powder, and vitamin supplements, if needed.
Cataracts are quite common among marsupials, especially in older animals. The resulting limitation in eyesight creates complications for wild animals. Affected kangaroos have trouble finding food, getting around, and are often left behind by the mob. This kangaroo with cataracts is safe at the sanctuary and is a permanent care animal.
An estimated 10 million animals are hit by cars in Australia every year. Female marsupials often have joeys in their pouches who perish along their mothers unless they’re rescued. This joey was already dead when found and would have been too small to hand raise, even if alive.
For a long time, this sanctuary battled a skin issue, which affected many animals in care. The condition caused flaky, tight skin, which eventually affected the animal’s muscles and mobility. To cure the problem, animals were bathed regularly under sedation and given medicine. After a lot of trial and error, a change of pellets fed to the animals resolved the skin issue within 2 weeks.
This animal was hand raised at the sanctuary and consequently freed at another sanctuary, which is used as a release site. Unfortunately, the latter property burned completely in the 2020 bushfires. This female animal was one of the few survivors of the catastrophic fire. She suffered awful burns all over her body, but has now made full recovery thanks to the efforts of the sanctuary owners and carers.
This amputated forearm belongs to an animal who had an open forearm fracture. The animal had probably been hit by a car, as he also suffered broken ribs. An amputation was performed by vets and the kangaroo was released into the wild, where he became the leader of the mob. Unfortunately, most wildlife organisations don’t bother saving animals in such condition and would instead euthanise the animal on the spot.
This female fell and rolled down a hill after jumping a fence. As a result, her joey died inside her pouch and the animal suffered mobility issues. The volunteers did daily physiotherapy and standing with her. This sanctuary is one of the few taking in mature wildlife. Most organisations and carers don’t want to deal with adults, who take up more space, time, and are difficult to rehabilitate.
Fencing is a deadly problem for wildlife in Australia as many animals end up getting entangled when trying to jump the barriers. Most animals caught in fencing die from the resulting stress, injuries, or they’re eaten alive by predators. For kangaroos, fencing incidents result in dislocated hips, fractures, and back issues. The animal on the photograph only lost her toe and was successfully released about 2 months later.
This joey was separated from his mother during torrential rain. He had been attacked by another wombat and subsequently found alone at a farmer’s shed. The wombat has become attached to humans, as he doesn’t have a peer in this or nearby sanctuaries. It’s difficult to rescue older joeys, as wombats become hostile towards other wombats at a certain age. Hence most wombats have to be alone until their release.
Besides in care animals, the sanctuary has a freely roaming population on its property. This population is fed extra pellets to ensure that animals have enough to eat on the property. Another reason to feed these animals is to monitor the health of individual kangaroos and keep the animals on the sanctuary, as they are otherwise endangered by kangaroo shooters, cars, fencing, and dogs.