By Rose Astley
For as long as Australia has native wildlife, there will always be the need for the selfless individuals who dedicate not only their time but their lives to helping our fauna back on their feet.
A hungry and demanding baby bird can be heard cheeping from Donna Anthony’s living space, his call for his foster mum to feed him for the tenth time today is a loud and persistent reminder that a mother’s work is never done.
Donna is a queen of the wildlife rescue world on the Sunshine Coast, spending more time helping animals than she can count. Joeys need a feed at and that takes around an hour, so most nights are late. Two in the morning is a usual waking hour for Donna. It is then she tends to hungry possums and fix the dressings on injured kangaroos.
“Having an eight-hour sleep would be just amazing for me,” she says.
Living a simple country life is what fosters Donna’s love for the land and the animals that inhabit it. Her parents owned a farm that allowed her to spend time with horses, cattle, dogs and even kangaroos.
“We would have kangaroo shooters come through all the time, which was so sad, but we looked after the occasional joey when I was growing up,” she says. “That was the beginning of my full-time love for native animals, and it’s been full time ever since.”
The Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc. (WILVOs) was Donna’s chosen organisation to contribute her time to when she moved to the Sunshine Coast. This was 20 years ago.
Donna’s job not only includes rescuing, nursing, raising, rehabilitating and releasing all of the animals that come into her care, but she also publishes their newsletters, writes fortnightly articles for local newspapers and hosts and attends several informative wildlife workshops. Her organisation titles include vice chairperson, newsletter editor, workshop coordinator – “and whatever else.”
It takes a person who’s worth their weight in gold to do to the job she does so positively, but Donna’s work makes only a dent in the fight to save native wildlife.
As land continues to be cleared and animals’ homes are bulldozed, her days are becoming busier with a large number of kangaroos, possums, gliders, echidnas and other native animals being dropped at her doorstep. According to Donna, many are in such bad way it is easier for everyone involved that they are euthanised.
Donna reminisces about a time she cared for a baby echidna that had been brought to her by construction workers when she decided to test a theory she had previously read about echidna’s responding to sound. She would bang two dishes together every time she fed the baby and did this until it was time for his release.
Once the echidna was grown, she released him into her garden and that was the last she thought she would see of him. But one day, weeks later, she was cooking lunch and the echidna returned to her yard as the sound of dishes clanging together could be heard. She called him “Begónie”.
Donna takes great pride in providing the best care for the abandoned and the injured, and it is a job that only the most compassionate could undertake.
“I want to see more young people volunteering to help care for the animals,” she says. “It’s not a bad gig, and you don’t need any training. I will help you along the way. Animals are not getting smarter; it’s up to us to help them through their life, not make it harder for them.”
The outcome that Donna and her colleagues at WILVOSs strive so hard for can only succeed with help from the public.
For help with injured wildlife, call the WILVOs hotline on 07 5441 6200, or, if you would like to assist Donna by volunteering, visit Wilvos.org.au.