ACT Wildlife carers sharing the Christmas season with a menagerie of animals
Advertisement

ACT Wildlife carers sharing the Christmas season with a menagerie of animals

While other households were probably a mad rush of tearing open presents, Joan McKay enjoyed the most beautifully peaceful start to Christmas morning - bottle-feeding two baby wallabies.

The retired teacher-librarian who spent most of her career at Dickson College, has little trouble devoting her time to animals.

ACT Wildlife carer Joan McKay with some snug-looking wallabies.

ACT Wildlife carer Joan McKay with some snug-looking wallabies.

Photo: Jay Cronan

"They're part of us and it's important," she said.

In backyards around Canberra, volunteers with ACT Wildlife continue right throughout the summer holidays to care for sick, injured and orphaned native birds and animals.

ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey was an ACT finalist in the 2017 Australian of the Year awards in the Local Hero category.

ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey was an ACT finalist in the 2017 Australian of the Year awards in the Local Hero category.

Photo: Jay Cronan
Advertisement

The 24-hour service - run entirely by volunteers - just doesn't stop.

"It's kind of like looking after a baby - just lots of them," ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey​ said.

At Ms Peachey's house in Kambah there was a baby flying fox whose starving mother had run out of milk. The little bat has a penchant for sucking on a dummy. He also likes to hang on one of Mrs Peachey's old dressing gowns or in the big mulberry tree out the back.

There were also a gaggle of Australian wood ducklings found abandoned at Strathnairn. A grey teal duck unable to walk properly was most likely hit by a car. There were rosellas who needed feeding through a syringe.

This baby flying fox loves sucking on a dummy. The baby was dropped by its starving mother after she stopped producing milk. The flying fox is now in the good hands of ACT Wildlife volunteers.

This baby flying fox loves sucking on a dummy. The baby was dropped by its starving mother after she stopped producing milk. The flying fox is now in the good hands of ACT Wildlife volunteers.

Photo: Jay Cronan

This year was Ms Peachey's turn for a break over Christmas. Four whole days. (And she was named a finalist in the Local Hero section for the 2017 Australian of the Year awards, so she deserves a break.) Other volunteers step in to take the animals.

Abbey Morris, a 27-year-old real estate agent with the One Agency, arrives to pick up the ducklings. She's been a volunteer for about a year.

ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey helps to gather up some native wood ducklings for transport.

ACT Wildlife president Marg Peachey helps to gather up some native wood ducklings for transport.

Photo: Jay Cronan

"Oh, I love it. Absolutely love it," she said.

"When you get to release something like the ducks and see them happily swim off, it's just fabulous."

The flying fox loves hanging on his carer's dressing gown.

The flying fox loves hanging on his carer's dressing gown.

Photo: Jay Cronan

While final figures for the year are being tallied, Ms Peachey said in the last 12 months there had been 7380 calls to ACT Wildlife, with busy days averaging 30 to 40 calls.

The service has rehabilitated 2212 animals. More than 200 are still in care - mostly birds but also possums and gliders, reptiles, wallabies, wombats and flying foxes.

ACT Wildlife has 39 carers and 161 members.

Access Canberra, previously Canberra Connect, diverts all wildlife-related phone calls - except for kangaroo and wombats on the roads and snakes - to ACT Wildlife. The ACT Government gives the service $6000 a year.

But ACT Wildlife really runs on the kindness and dedication of its volunteers and also the help of professionals including Canberra's vets who often give their services for free.

"We have people who sew and knit pouches for joeys, people who help us construct aviaries," Ms Peachey said.

"We work well with PCL rangers and with Wildcare Queanbeyan. And we are especially appreciative of all the veterinary surgeries throughout the ACT for their expert help with injured wildlife."

The ultimate goal is to get the animals healthy and back into the wild or a wildlife refuge.

Mrs McKay, meanwhile, recently drove to Candelo on the South Coast to release a wallaby into a refuge. She had cared for him for five months. His mother had been hit by a car on State Circle. A passing cyclist found the joey in her pouch.

Mrs McKay called him Banksy after the artist and the native banksia.

Watching him bound off to his new home was the best gift she could receive.

* Have you found an injured native animal in the ACT? For injured kangaroos, call Access Canberra on13 22 81. For all other injured, sick or orphaned native animals call ACT Wildlife on 0432 300 033. For animals in NSW, call Wildcare Queanbeyan on 6299 1966.