There has been a mystery illness killing the juvenile (last year’s joeys) Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the Wamboin /Bywong area over the last 2 months. The first cases we became aware of were rescued by experienced wildlife carers in the local area; Jo Walker, Tony and Terry Cooper and ourselves. The animals were so weak that the rescuers could often just walk up to them and wrap them in a blanket. Most would die within 12-24 hours despite treatment with warmth and security, fluids, antibiotics and nutrition. Death was so rapid that it was difficult to arrange an examination of a live animal by a vet. The animals had lost weight and were very lethargic. Several had a systolic heart murmur and bradycardia (slow heart rate). The respiratory rate was slow and pattern abnormal. Some had opisthotonous (head arching backwards) and dilated slightly reactive pupils. Several animals had seizures . The one animal who I was with at time of death had a respiratory arrest . Due to the severe weather we have been having in this area some were hypothermic (26-29 degrees). We have had 15 animals either brought to us at the Possumwood Wildlife Recovery Centre or rescued by us and another four were still mobile and not able to be caught easily. There have been many reports by residents in this area of deaths of juvenile EG on their properties. All animals we have cared for have been placed in isolation at our wildlife recovery centre. Dr Howard Ralph from Southern Cross Wildlife Care – the most experienced wildlife vet in Australia – did a post mortem on two animals, Rainbow and Moonbeam, on the 6th of August. Unfortunately Rainbow had died only a couple of hours before Howard was able to examine the animals. Moonbeam had died the night before. Rainbow had a large amount of fluid in the peritoneal cavity (ascites) and fluid around the heart and lungs (pericardial and pleural effusions). There also appeared to be pathology in the brain and meninges. There was food in the stomach and the poo in the bowel was pelleted and appeared normal. Urine dipstick was also normal. Rainbow had some worms (Strongyles ?) in the bowel. There were similar findings for Moonbeam. The possibility that the deaths could be due to an encephalomyocarditis virus was considered. Tissue samples were taken and sent to Sydney University for histopathology. Unfortunately the tissue sample sent to the usual veterinary pathology laboratory for viral and bacterial culture was not able to be processed because we were told private laboratories do not do viral cultures. The animal deaths were reported to the local Wildcare acting macropod coordinator and to Wildlife Health Australia. We were called to rescue a juvenile (Moonshine) from Forest Road at 9 pm on Sunday night 16 August. This little animal was very unwell. The kind staff at the local vet surgery at Bungendore arranged for little Moonshine to be examined by Dr Michael McCormack on Monday morning. As Moonshine was near death, the poor little creature was euthanased and immediate transport to the Elizabeth Macarthur Institute in Sydney was arranged. Dr McCormack’s examination findings were the same as what we have observed.The post mortem findings from the Elizabeth Macarthur Institute were similar to those of Dr Ralph. It is possible that if these deaths are due to an infectious disease then it is the immune system which is making these juveniles susceptible. We are not seeing more than the usual number of deaths in adults or in pouch joeys (who are protected by the mother’s immune system). Some locals have been concerned re poisoning of the animals but the widespread occurrence of the deaths and the selectivity for juveniles suggest that this is not the case. This event brings to mind the saying – Today’s abundant species is tomorrow’s endangered species.
Steve and Rosemary delivered three papers at the Third International Minding Animals Conference in New Delhi in January. One paper was on the work they do for injured wildlife at Possumwood, a second was concerned with neuropsychological issues in Australian kangaroos and the third was about wildlife knowledge systems and the epistemological implications for environmental analysis
In the Fact Sheet section we reported on our success in treating a life threatening respiratory illness in infant eastern grey kangaroos using the antiviral Valaciclovir. We had suspected a herpes virus which are known to affect kangaroos and this medication is used to treat herpes virus infections in humans. Nasal swab pathology tests were ordered for Herpesvirus PCR. Test Result : The sample was positive for the presence of
herpesvirus DNA by PCR.
Rosemary and I rescued Scottie last September. He had been attacked by dogs and was in a bad way. But this was to be his lucky day. His wounds and his general condition were so bad most other rescuers would probably have had him euthanised Fortunately our wildlife veterinarian could see him the same day and after a lengthy procedure to clean out seven very deep incisor wounds he came back to Possumwood for the recovery stage. After three months in recovery all his wounds had healed and he weighed a strapping 37 kgs. Last week Scottie went to his new home at Hammers Hill wildlife sanctuary. A perfect place for a wombat. There is much more to tell about our adventures with Scottie and a full story with pictures will be posted in the wombat stories section shortly.
Gypsy Wulff’s new book Turning Points in Compassion is a great read this Summer for those interested in the compassionate lives of animal advocate personalities around the world. The book can be ordered at: www.turningpointsincompassion_info
Steve is interviewed for his work as founder and president of the Animal Justice Party of Australia.
This week Possumwood Wildlife secured two grants to assist with its operation. Both grants recognise the significant contribution Possumwood makes to wildlife wellbeing.
The first grant is from Voiceless, the animal protection organisation.
The second grant is from the NSW Wildlife Council to help with an upgrade to the large macropod enclosure.
The Wildlife Trust of India has asked Possumwood to present its work with Australian wildlife in the Protecting Animals Seminar Series at the Third Minding Animals Conference in New Delhi in January. In addition, Steve and Rosemary will be presenting two papers on wildlife emotional behaviour in the academic section of MAC3
George is a lucky kangaroo. A member of the public stopped by the side of the road in the ACT and noticed movement in the pouch of a dead female kangaroo. Following instructions over the phone the member of the public was able to reach into the pouch and safely extract George who was only 500 grams and furless( called a pinkie).
He was transported across the border into safe care in NSW away from likely death at the hands of the ACT Government(orphan kangaroo joeys are bashed or beheaded in the ACT). George is now a very affectionate adolescent who is due for release with his friends in a safe place .