Wildlife carers: Not enough hands to look after drought-affected rescues

YASS WILDCARE MEMBERS: Jane Baker holds a wallaby while Catherine Burgess holds two eastern grey joeys in care. Photo: Hannah Sparks
YASS WILDCARE MEMBERS: Jane Baker holds a wallaby while Catherine Burgess holds two eastern grey joeys in care. Photo: Hannah Sparks

Yass Wildcare members say they need more volunteers to rescue the influx of animals impacted by drought.

"We have a large number of joeys, possums and reptiles ... and this year the numbers have escalated due to the drought," said Yass Wildcare member Catherine Burgess.

The rescued wildlife are often underweight, dehydrated and infected with parasites, said Yass Wildcare member Jane Baker.

Ms Burgess is caring for 23 joeys at her Yass River Road property. "This one was from Murrumbateman Road ... A guy out jogging found her on her own," she said, nursing two eastern grey joeys in a homemade pouch.

"This other one was on Elms Road, Yass River. Her mum was stuck in a fence. The mum got away, but we weren't sure if she'd come back and, with no water around, we decided to rescue her."

Ms Burgess, 62, is the only carer between Canberra and Yass looking after eastern grey kangaroos. She also recently took in a wallaby from Young because no one else could.

Mrs Baker, 72, said the challenge was "the commitment. It's a good 18-month responsibility". Carers can work around the clock, feeding and rescuing wildlife.

"I don't get any sleep. I do the last feed at 11.30pm and then I clean up," Ms Burgess said. "The toll catches up with you," Mrs Baker said. They are two of only three Wildcare members in Yass. Most Wildcare volunteers were in their late 30s or older, they said.

There's also a financial burden. Carers receive no help with costs except for a charity rate from vets. Ms Burgess just paid $420 for a 20 kilogram bag of milk, which will run dry in two weeks. "That's without paying for bedding, washing - my washing machine has been on three times today - hay, pellets, bottles..." she said.

"Some people can't afford to be carers. We fundraise all year to subsidise those who can't, but 95 percent of carers cover costs themselves," Mrs Baker said.

Ms Burgess was grateful to Angela Smith at One Tree Hill Alpaca Farm, who made and donated 50 pouches to her. "Others (who can't care) sew, fundraise, fetch and carry animals," Mrs Baker said.

There is also the emotional toll as carers grow attached to animals that are eventually released, although not all will survive.

Mrs Baker has been with Wildcare for 15 years, and Ms Burgess for about eight, although she's taken care of animals almost all her life. "I love animals and believe every life has a right," Ms Burgess said.

"When I finished teaching, I didn't have anything to be passionate about," Mrs Baker said. "Then I found Tom, a wombat, and it has given both of us (with husband Kevin) something worthwhile."

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