By Emily Larkin
Would you know how to help an injured wild animal?
If you attended the WILVOS (Wildlife Volunteers) animal workshop in Yandina recently, you could answer ‘yes’.
Veterinarian and founder of the Southern Cross Wildlife Care organisation, Dr Howard Ralph, flew to the Coast to share his knowledge about assessing and caring for ailing wildlife.
He was met by about 45 animal lovers and a baby ringtail possum that one WILVOS member rescued on the way to the workshops.
With Dr Ralph around, the possum and the students were in good hands.
Dr Ralph said he wanted to “cover the full spectrum of what you might see”, and acknowledged that animal lovers are sometimes met with difficult or upsetting situations.
“We need to expose you to some of the horror — and the good things — and help you learn to manage,” he told the audience.
“It can be pretty upsetting doing assessment (of an injured animal), but someone’s got to do it.”
He said a lot of vets work with domesticated animals, but wildlife “get a rough deal” and need care as well.
“All living creatures feel pain, so we need to give first aid,” he added.
WILVOS vice-chair and newsletter editor Donna Anthony agreed that working with injured wildlife was sometimes confronting, but “we’ve got a responsibility to do something”.
“Sometimes one of the best rescues is euthanasia,” she said.
“If you’ve found something that’s injured and you give it warmth and take it to the vet, that’s so much better than dying slowly out in the cold.
“The new (WILVOS) carers ask ‘when do you get used to (death)?’, and I say ‘you don’t get used to it’.
“If you didn’t care about animals you wouldn’t be doing this…but often you get to give them a second chance.”
Dr Ralph instructed attendees to inspect their surroundings and make sure it was safe before approaching an injured animal.
“People have been killed trying to rescue animals off the road,” he said.
“You have to be really careful.”
Alexandra Headlands resident Susanne Armstrong attended the workshops as a new WILVOS member.
“I want to become a licensed wildlife rescuer,” she said.
“This is a way for me to get my animal fix.”
Mrs Armstrong said WILVOS members can support orphaned or injured macropods, reptiles or birds, and help them return to the wild.
“What attracted me to WILVOS was sort of an empty nest thing – I wondered what I could do with my mothering instincts now my children are grown up, and thought I could help animals.”
Those attending the workshops learnt to look for any unusual behaviour or visual signs in an animal that might indicate a problem.
For example, signs of distress in birds include disorientation, breathing through the mouth, fluffing up feathers, or holdings their wings at strange angles.
Mrs Armstrong said she worked as a nurse, and saw a correlation between how to help people and animals.
Applying pressure to an open wound or rehydrating an animal may save its life.