All posts by steve


It was late one night when Manar, a severely injured adult female wombat, was brought to us. She had a fractured skull and  jaw , severe concussion and dehydration.The rescuer had noticed her by the side of the road in the morning but thought that she was dead . On his way home in the afternoon he noticed that she made a slight movement and  stopped and rescued her . She was barely alive. Thus began a long relationship with a dear, gentle but wild creature who one day found the call of the wild strong enough to  leave our care and have a second chance at life.

For months Manar required  hand feeding using a large bladder syringe. She was unable to chew food so we prepared a slurry of blended grass, pellets  wombat formula and Nutrigel. Feeding was always a messy time, but Manar enjoyed her food. For a wombat that should have been almost 30kgs she only weighed 17kgs. She was content to  sleep for long hours safe and cosy in a large  bin. It was easy to fall asleep on the lounge chair with Manar asleep in your arms.

Over the months Manar had several operations and had an infected front tooth removed.After her tooth extraction she  began putting on weight and became more animated in her behaviour. She developed a friendship with a rescued lamb and they spent hours playing together. She also enjoyed sleeping in a hollow log in the nursery wombat enclosure where she stayed during daylight hours. At night we let her out for a walk with a small flashing light attached to a collar. She still had some while to go in recovering from her head injury and was not yet in a position to be released although she was now eating well.

One night while out wandering around we lost sight of Manar which caused great concern. Although we searched high and low we could not see her flashing light. How pleased we were when a neighbour reported seeing a wombat walking down one of the rural roads in our vicinity. Manar was also very happy to be home again and spent the next 24 hours just sleeping.

Manar kept improving and we could tell by her digging and other behaviour that she was wanting to leave. We were not so confident that she had fully recovered and would have been happy for her to spend the rest of her days with us, but it was not to be and one day she managed to escape her nursery enclosure and was gone before we knew it. Again we thought neighbours would report seeing her and despite weeks of searching she seemed to have vanished. She had been with us 18 months.

We can only hope she is living a free and enjoyable life and perhaps, just maybe, we might see her one more time soon.She really was a  very dear, gentle and loving creature and we still miss her greatly.



Emotional Eyes

Emotional eyes

Steve and Rosemary’s story

‘Dasher’ had lost her long time and inseparable companion ‘Rudi’ to cardiomyopathy –  resulting from being chased by a dog.

For weeks Dasher ran expectantly back and forth to all the favourite places she had shared with her friend – the Casuarina embankment, ‘Rudi’s tree’ with its long shady branches, amongst the rose bushes and in amongst the violets calling out urgently . She pulled herself up high enough to look through every window of the house with the same sense of expectation she might find her friend.

As the weeks passed, the urgency of her searching changed to one of despondency. She refused to move from the back door mat hoping her friend would return. There was a deep sadness in her eyes, and on more than one occasion  I am sure a tear could be seen to roll from misty eyes as the permanency of the loss began to be realised.

Dasher kept up a lonely vigil that echoed a deep sadness that seemed never to lessen. There were some poignant moments when she would hug tightly with her carer; pulling her head in closely for the comfort of a mother all orphans yearn for.

For wildlife carers these are special moments when time stands still. These are the times that make the effort of being a wildlife carer fulfilling. They are emotions that are often not revealed in the wild animal. They are moments of tenderness towards humans that are genuine and come from a soul that is ordinarily well hidden – a rare insight into the world of a wild animal.

I hear on the radio researchers have proven that animals express emotion.  Wildlife carers know, if they spend an honest nearness with their charges, that such expression of emotion can be far more intense than any laboratory test could ever reveal.

Eventually, Dasher found another friend and happiness appeared to return for a while. She would be gone for days, and she could even be seen – if you looked closely – to have a new found spring in her hop as she kicked her legs from side to side. Perhaps even a  joey might be possible for soon. However, Fate was to once again intervene in Dasher’s life. Like Rudi  before him, Dasher’s new friend Bob also succumbed to cardiomyopathy likely resulting from a dog chase. At least for Bob the end came quickly, dying from a cardiac arrest in the vet’s surgery. The neighbour now  prevents her dogs from harrassing the local wildlife but too late for poor Dasher .

So what became of dear Dasher.  Did she ever recover from a twice-broken heart?

Fur Elise

She was as beautiful as the music she was named after and a very lucky little joey. Elise was caught by her foot in a wire fence suspended off the ground on a hot afternoon. The wire had cut deeply into the skin proximal to the metatarsophalangeal joint( between the ankle and toe).

Just imagine how it must feel to be suspended upside down and unable to touch the ground to relieve the pull on your leg .The wire wound tightly around your leg cuts off the circulation and as you struggle to get free the wire cuts into your skin with every move. The soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves) is stretched and possibly a bone is fractured or a hip dislocated. Your mother is nearby and is  distressed and not able to help. Then you are approached by a predator – in this case a human. No wonder myopathy can be a problem for kangaroos rescued from fences.

I examined Elise and fortunately she did not have a fracture or dislocation. She did have deep wire cuts down to the bone and these wounds were flushed with sterile saline, dressed with Manuka honey and then bandaged. She had a  course of antibiotics and was given Vit E/ Selenium injections for three days to reduce the risk of myopathy. Her major problem was knuckling (the toe curling under) because of a sciatic nerve injury which results in an inability to dorsiflex (flatten) the foot. She also had an obturator nerve injury which made her unable to adduct her leg (bring the leg toward the body from the side). This caused her to have  a frog-like hop with the leg sticking out to the side. A thick bandage over the metatarsophalangeal joint reduced the knuckling and protected the joint during recovery

If you rescue a kangaroo from wire fence entanglement and it cannot get up and hop don’t despair. If there is no fracture or dislocation the main problem is nerve damage which usually settles over a  number of weeks. Even fractures and dislocations can be treated, although in larger animals dislocation can be problematic.

Elise made a full recovery. She has lived  a free life on Possumwood now for about 10 years and we have the pleasure of seeing her most days . If you haven’t heard of Fur Elise (the piano solo by Beethoven) before it really is a beautiful piece of music – very soothing for both animals and humans.

Respiratory Illness

Kangaroos are susceptible to a highly contagious respiratory illness which can often be fatal in small animals especially less than four kg. The first symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose. If untreated the joeys can develop copious, thick, nasal secretions and mucosal oedema which can prevent the animal from breathing through its nostrils. Wheezing and breathing difficulty can also develop. Despite intravenous antibiotics animals often die . At post mortem there appears to be gastrointestinal tract ulceration and  consolidation in both lungs. Several joeys have developed ulcers on the cornea , nostrils and cloaca.

Herpes viruses are known to  affect kangaroos. We have used an antiviral called Valaciclovir successfully to treat this respiratory illness in  small eastern Grey Kangaroos. This medication is used to treat herpes virus infections in humans.

It is important to use this medication early ie. as soon as it is noticed that an animal has sneezed several times – not just got something up its nose!  Valaciclovir acts to prevent the virus from replicating.  Hence the need to commence it early in the infection as soon as the joey starts to sneeze.

Each Valaciclovir  tablet is 500mg. The human dose is 1g of Valaciclovir (ie.2 tablets ) three times a day for one week. We have been using the following dose rate for joeys . Crush one tablet finely and suspend in 15 ml of cooled boiled water. Use at a rate of 0.5 ml per kg of the shaken suspension  three times a day for seven days.This can be given before or with formula in a syringe to make it more palatable. Keep unused medication in the fridge for use the same day.

For those joeys which already have severe symptoms we have used the following medications to treat them symptomatically: (a)Paracetamol  at 10 mg per kg twice daily if the joey has a fever; (b) FESS nasal saline and simple suction instrument (available at a Chemist) to  soften and remove nasal secretions; (c) Bromhexine (Bisolvon) to  reduce the viscosity of the mucous.Crush one tablet finely and suspend in 15 ml of boiled water and use 0.5 ml per kg of the shaken suspension three times daily.This can be given before their formula or mixed with a small amount of formula in a syringe  to make it more palatable. Keep unused medication in the fridge for use the same day ; (d)Salbutamol (Ventolin) nebuliser or inhaler with spacer and mask if the joey is wheezing and having breathing difficulty;  (e) Amoxycillin(BetamoxLA) at 0.1 ml per kg SCI second daily to prevent secondary infection and  (f) Sucralfate(Carafate) for gastrointestinal ulceration. Disperse half  a tablet in 15 ml of boiled water and use 0.5 ml per kg four times daily for 7 days. Use if joey appears unwell despite  the Valaciuclovir  and is refusing formula.

In the most recent outbreak of this respiratory illness which appears to have been brought into  Possumwood by a 3 kg joey, Cherry Blossom, from Captains Flat 13 0f the 15 of our joeys less than 6 kg have been affected . Spencer and Darby were immune despite having   mild symptoms only during the previous outbreak.Most of the joeys stopped sneezing after 3-5 days of Valaciclovir.One  joey,Hogan- 1.9 kg, became unwell despite the use of Valaciclovir .He was given Bisolvon,  Carafate and Betamox and now appears to be doing well. Our newest arrival,Rafke-900g-has been given a prophylactic dose of Valaciclovir and as yet has not developed symptoms .Tthe prophylactic dose of Valaciclovir is 0.5 ml of the suspension once daily for 7 days.Prophylaxis is advisable for the smaller joeys (less than 3 kg).

Following infection the joeys will have developed immunity to this virus .The identity of the virus causing this illness will hopefully soon be available.

This fact sheet is dedicated to our pecious little Sophie -the last of our joeys to succumb to this virus. Valaciclovir saved her friends Spencer and Darby- the first time we  used  this medication. Since that outbreak it has been effective in treating  a number of our joeys whenever this virus has been brought into  our sanctuary by a new arrival. The incubation period appears to be about a week.

Hypothermia and Hypoglycaemia

Hypothermia and Hypoglycaemia

Rosemary’s story about Tinkerbell the Brushtail Possum

Winter is the time to check rescued animals for hypothermia. Even a very cold, floppy, unresponsive animal can show great improvement after a few hours of warming. We have seen a number of examples of this. Its important to be absolutely certain an animal has died before holding off  treatment for hypothermia.

Tinkerbell (re-named Zena because of her attitude) was a 500 gram brushtail possum with a severe case of hypothermia. When rescued she was cold and motionless laying on the ground. She appeared dead but I put her under my shirt and jumper for the short trip home. She was very cold, floppy and showed no response when I pinched her toe. I was about to get my stethoscope out to check her heart and be absolutely sure when I decided to try a blink reflex test first. There was an ever so slight eyelid movement when I touched her eye so she immediately got  treatment for hypothermia and hypoglycaemia.

To treat for hypoglycaemia I usually just wet my finger and coat it in glucose powder and then rub the glucose powder around the gums and into the mouth. To treat hypothermia I use warmed wheat bags, discs, an electric blanket on a low setting or a warm bath. Its important to warm the hypothermic animal slowly from the inside out. If you warm the animal too quickly the peripheral vasodilation (peripheral blood vessels dilate and blood is diverted to the peripheral areas of the body and away from the vital organs viz heart, brain, and kidneys) can cause a drop in blood pressure and death. The ideal treatment is to warm the animal from the inside with warm intravenous fluids when available. Warmed subcutaneous fluids are also useful in warming a cold, dehydrated animal.

After four hours of warming Tinkerbell regained some tone and curled herself up. She was now able to swallow Nutrigel and glucose water dripped into her mouth from a syringe. After a few more hours of warming she was able to drink Lectade from a syringe. She also licked baby fruit juice gel and apple puree from a spoon. After 24 hours she was eating wattle flowers, roses and gum tips. Over the next few weeks she ate her way through all my autumn roses, gained weight and was released after several  months in  care. We renamed her Zena because she became a very feisty brushtail and not a Tinkerbell at all.

Steve’s Story about Slim the kangaroo joey

Slim (Steve’s Little Miracle) was a small kangaroo joey that had been caught by both legs in a wire fence, released by a member of the public but left on the ground in very cold conditions. His mother was nearby but Slim could not get up from the ground to get into the warmth of his mother’s pouch. All through the freezing night he lay on the ground with his mother standing by. When rescued the next day it appears as though he must have been attacked by a fox as he had puncture wounds to the head and ear. If not for his mother he would have succumbed to the fox attack and the freezing cold. When noticed the next day Slim as taken to the local vet by a member of the public. This is where we came into the story.

With puncture wounds from the fox attack, injuries to both legs from being caught in the wire fence and hypothermic Slim was a very sick little joey.The veterinarian transferred him to Possumwood for care . He was unable to suck and his mouth was very cold (a simple way to check for hypothermia).The tympanic thermometers are an easy method for checking  a joey’s temperature.  He was dehydrated. He was warmed slowly in an electric blanket and I gave him glucose and Nutrigel every two hours for the first 24 hours. As he warmed he was also able to drink small amounts of Lectade and glucose water. After 48 hours he was able to drink small amounts of milk. He was also treated with Vit E/ Selenium, Dexamethasone and Baytril. After one week Slim was doing very well but was knuckling on both feet. His tarsometatarsal joints were bandaged to protect the joints  as he recovered. It was several weeks before he could hop again but he was happy recuperating in a warm bag.

It’s important that cold, rescued  joeys are carefully checked as they may still be alive despite appearing to be  dead.

Tangled up with Tangles and Captain (his father)

Late in the afternoons the local kangaroo mob with their alpha male gather near our treatment centre in the hope they might get some additional feed.  Most times we oblige and give them a bucket or two.This  allows us to monitor our wild mob for sick or injured animals . For a few weeks we had noticed one of the mothers had a very large joey in her pouch and wondered why it had not yet emerged.  The answer became clear one such evening.

Looking at the local mob we noticed the joey from the mother we had been watching had now emerged. But there was something wrong with it. One leg was deformed.  This can sometimes happen if the mother has a fall or hits a wire fence and  the small joey in the pouch suffers a fractured limb which heals with a deformity.

We called this little fellow ‘Tangles’. He would not survive in the wild with a leg so deformed.  He could not possibly keep up with the mob and the leg would ulcerate and become infected . We had to rescue him immediately or he would be vulnerable to a predator the same night. He had one chance. Either he came into care or he would die. So we conceived a plan to catch the little fellow.

We very gradually approached the mob with the usual bucket of food spreading it in small piles. Rosemary inched her way toward the joey all the time spreading food for the mob. She managed to grab Tangles by the tail  and he immediately  roared and called his mother .

The mob went crazy as the joey cried out. The alpha male, who we knew well and  affectionately  called Captain charged at Rosemary. She had the joey by the tail in one hand and luckily still had the bucket in the other hand .She threw the tin bucket at Captain and this temporarily distracted him.Meanwhile little Tangles continued to roar and   call his mother. Rosemary turned ,passed the  joey to Steve and was clobbered by Captain from behind. Meanwhile Steve who was now hanging on to Tangles was being accosted by two females  and then he had to fend off  Captain but managed to hold on to the joey and  make a run for the enclosure with Tangles in hand.Rosemary keeps her shredded thermal top as a memento of this interesting rescue.

Once inside the enclosure the mob settled down.We sedated Tangles and bandaged his leg which  already was grazed from one day of hopping on the deformed leg.He would call to his mother in the evenings initially but eventually settled in  and made friends with the other little joeys in care  .We were impressed by the actions of the mob to protect the joey. Captain has never shown any aggression towards us at any other time .

Tangles had a healed mid shaft fracture of the tibia causing his leg deformity. He was only 6 kg and  recovered well from his surgery and has now been released . He was the dominant male in the enclosure prior to release. Captain has now relinquished his position as dominant male and  sleeps during the day under the trees near the house  or enclosure .He is a wonderful gentle creature and we feel privileged   that he has chosen to spend his retirement with us at Possumwood .

From Chaos to Calm in a Second

One of the joys of living with wild animals is going for a walk and having previously cared-for animals come over to you to say ‘hello’.
Recently Rosemary was out walking in the afternoon. It was windy and the local kangaroo mob were unusually nervous. Kangaroos don’t like the wind as it disturbs their vital senses of hearing and smell. But on this occasion the mob were even more nervous so she decided to look around the area to see what was upsetting them. She heard a commotion near one of the fences on the property some distance away from the treatment centre and went to investigate.
A small kangaroo joey was caught in one of the wire fences and was  surrounded by a mob of around 20 highly agitated  kangaroos . The joey roared and roared sending the mob into a frenzy. The joey’s mother fortunately was on the other side of the fence so she could be fended off as she came in to remonstrate with Rosemary as she approached quickly , lifted and held  the joey to prevent it from dislocating its hip  . The other anxious kangaroos crowded in quite close and were milling around  as the joey continued to roar. With a lot of difficulty she was able to prise the wires apart with her fingers to release the joey’s foot. In an instant the joey slipped to the ground, hopped  off to its relieved mother and somersaulted into her pouch.  All the roaring ceased immediately and the mob just stood perfectly still and watched.The sudden quietness was  astounding.
Rosemary sensed a presence close behind her and turned quickly thinking  it might be the dominant male . Instead there was the beautiful ,serene face of Isabella ,one of our released kangaroos  . She  seemed to be reassuring Rosemary that all was well. Rosemary gently stroked Isabella’s face and felt quite safe and relaxed. On the other side of the fence she noticed Billy with a look of concern. Billy was another of our released kangaroos who we had not seen for several months. Both Isabella and Billy stayed close as the rest of the mob stood still and watched them long after things had settled down and the little  joey was safe and happy with its mother.
One by one the kangaroos in the mob came in closer as Rosemary sat on the ground with Billy and Isabella.Now such a serene scene – it had been chaos to calm in a second.


A Big Thanks From Big Bertha

Bertha 2The rescue and rehabilitation of injured native animals is a team effort and Bertha the wombat has many people to thank. Bertha was injured near a major highway and then was seen scurrying down her burrow.  First she had to be dug out of the burrow.  When rescued, X-rays showed Bertha had fractured her pelvis in three places.

The prognosis however was good as wombats have very strong muscles in this area of their body which would support the fractures while they healed.While not happy to begin with in her new in-care environment Bertha eventually saw we were there to help her and a positive relationship evolved.  Wombats can be quite vicious when they need to be, but Bertha quickly settled in with some gentle stroking and soothing talk.

While she was immobile she had a bed of straw at night to prevent pressure sores and during the day was taken outside to the grass so she could graze. Bertha was in our care for several months and was able to rest recover from her injuries  and gain weight in a safe environment before  being released in a safe place. As Bertha recovered she began to wander further  afield . On one occasion when Steve picked her up to bring her back to the front yard   she latched onto his hand – quite gently . Rosemary had to  open her mouth to release Steve’s hand . She had no intention of hurting him . She just wanted to be put down and continue to eat grass! When she was fully recovered and  had become  a ‘Big ‘ Bertha again she was released near a stream on an organic fruit and nut farm.Bertha 1

Monga Goes Home

Monga Goes Home

Monga the wombat was rescued near Mongarlowe. Weighing in at 34 kilograms the wild wombat, despite having a dislocated elbow and fractured wrist as a result of a motor vehicle accident, had no wish to be rescued and put up a real fight, which involved wrecking two nets, and bruising his rescuers.


However, unable to dig a burrow because of his injuries, Monga was vulnerable to predators such as marauding dogs.  The veterinarian relocated the elbow and reduced and splinted the  fracture .Initially Monga did not take kindly to his confined in-care surroundings, or to his splinted wrist, and he became depressed ,refused to eat and lost weight.The decision was made to syringe feed him.Initially Monga had to be held while he was syringe fed but he soon developed a liking for this tucker.It became one of Roemary’s great pleasures to syringe feed Monga then attempt to wipe his face without losing a finger and  have a tug  of war with him using  the towel . Monga also loved this game and so the syringe feeding and tug of war continued long after Monga had regained his appetite for grass.As is the case with many injured  wombats  they thrive once they develop a trust of and bond with their carer.


Releasing a rehabilitated wild adult wombat is not an easy task, not least because they are wild and large.  An ideal release site, where there is easy digging, a good water supply, other wombats, an existing unoccupied burrow, but no mange or dogs, is not easy to find.  With the help of a wildlife-friendly landowner near where he was initially rescued, Monga was released. As he left his transport box and moved towards the hole he stopped, turned and looked back at us  as if to say thank you and good bye.That moment is still vivid in our memory. It hard to say good bye to a friend. Monga has settled successfully and happily into his new home in  beautiful ,safe bush near a clear, sparkling creek.