Release day for young female koala
It is always wonderful to see the wildlife who come into care at Bohollow get back to their wild homes and it is the rewarding aspect of what we do. Just over a week ago Deb and I released a young female koala back to the eucalyptus trees of Loch Garry. She took quite awhile contemplating her freedom after quite a few months in care at our Kotupna shelter. I always wonder what goes through their minds when a critter first comes into our care and then again when they are finally returned to be wild and free. It must be a huge transition for them going from wild and untouched, likely never being close to human contact to suddenly being contained, treated and in an enclosure. Likewise, after many months in care with all their needs provided, the transition of suddenly being free again in their wild environment and having to forage or hunt on their own and navigate all the skills they require for survival must be just as much of a shock.
After taking in her release surroundings for half an hour or so, she decided to climb a River Red Gum and take up the familiar posture we all know of koalas, sitting comfortably in fork high up in the branches. We are very confident she will do ok out there although it is always a bit sad saying goodbye.
I rescued her from a backyard when she was suffering from severe heat stress and it took her quite awhile to recover from being on the ground for days before the residents finally thought they should report it.
The emotions of release are a strange combination of happiness, excitement, relief with a touch of sadness to see them go and of course there is always that element of worry of how they will go surviving back out there. If we have done our job correctly, the animal we are releasing should have the best possible chance to go on existing in their wild environment.
Wildlife care is so much more than just having a wild creature in your care for any period of time. To ensure we cater for each particular species we may have at the shelter, we need to have everything right. Correct housing for our patients is vital. Each species requires different housing to ensure they feel comfortable and safe and enabling the critter to carry out their natural behaviours. What works for some species doesn’t necessarily work for others. At our Bunbartha shelter where we specialise in all bird species, including birds of prey, each enclosure at the shelter is designed for specific species in mind. Wildlife can injure themselves easily and quickly when not housed correctly and most enclosures are built with shade netting rather than steel mesh materials to minimise damage.
Another important aspect of our work is diet for our critters. Each species has specific dietary requirements and it is no mean feat to provide this. At our Bunbartha shelter we need to have a steady supply of multiple seed and grain types, live food such as crickets, mealworms and cockroaches, fish, meat, rats, mice and many different specialty food mixes such as nectar, insectivore, high protein and other supplement foods. It is easy to see where the high expense of operating a large shelter comes in!
All these things allow us to safely care for the creatures who need our help but of utmost importance is to allow the animal to remain what it is, a wild critter who at the end of its time here, must be able to fend for itself when it is returned to its natural environment.
They must be able to forage for the correct foods which it will find in its natural environment. If it is a hunter such as our birds of prey or insect feeding wildlife, it must be familiar with and able to catch its natural prey.
Each year we receive many animals which people have decided to attempt to keep, sometimes with the intentions of keeping them permanently, sometimes with the intentions to release. These animals are usually always compromised in some way. Incorrect diets is a big one which causes nutritional deficiencies and problems and sometimes the damage can be irreversible by the time they reach us. This is always sad when we know the critter could have been easily rehabilitated and released if they had arrived at the shelter earlier, but incorrect care has cost them their life.
The other big issue we see is behavioural problems. I currently have a Tawny Frogmouth who was raised by well intentioned people. He is out in a flight enclosure with other adult Tawny Frogmouths learning to be a Tawny Frogmouth. As he was not around other birds of his own kind, it has taken the last couple of months to finally start mingling with the others and being more independent. Our baby Tawny Frogmouths were released months ago now and this young one was found in November, raised and then given to the shelter to ‘prepare’ it for release, many months after it was first found. This means this bird has been in care for an extraordinary amount of time for a bird found as a nestling, all because he was not taken to an experienced wildlife shelter when he was first found.
I know it can be very tempting to keep wildlife when it is found, either injured or orphaned, but the best interests of the animal is to get them to a registered shelter as soon as possible for all the reasons mentioned above. It is illegal to keep any wildlife species in care, short or long term, without a rehabilitation licence. Even galahs and cockatoos cannot be kept from the wild. It makes our job a lot more difficult when critters get here days, weeks, many months and sometimes even years later after they were first found.
We hope this young koala is enjoying swaying in the breeze of the gum trees, back where she belongs and goes on to have young koalas of her own.
If you find injured or orphaned wildlife, please call for help immediately.
For injured wildlife contact Kirsty at Bohollow on: 0447 636 953