Jowajilla Wildlife Refuge is a 150-acre pre-release/soft-release site in Mareeba, Queensland that cares for eastern grey kangaroos, wallaroos and rock wallabies. I spent a week with Jen learning what it’s like to work with these animals and see them successfully released into the wild.
Jen has been a carer for many years and has raised all kinds of orphaned and injured wildlife. While I was visiting, most of the animals in care were old enough to be outside all the time. Only one stayed inside the house in her pouch. The others, who were older, spent the night in the wild and would rock up early in the morning for a bottle.
Jowajilla is many kilometers away from major roads and cars making it the perfect site to reintroduce animals into the wild. The area around the main house is natural with a creek and rolling hills in the distance. There are mobs of wild wallabies and kangaroos in the area that welcome the newbies with open arms.
Life here appears to be perfect for the young kangaroos. They have the freedom to come and go as they slowly move toward independence. But, they also have the support and love from Jen when they need it. Also, not many people are allowed at the sanctuary as the roos slowly detach themselves from humans and step closer toward being completely wild.
It’s obvious that Jen is passionate about her mission to help macropods. Her nurturing builds confidence in these orphans, which allows them to become stronger and increase the likelihood of survival in the wild. She is patient and persistent when they are scared. She showers them with affection and provides them with safety during an uncertain time.
Jowajilla Wildlife Refuge is just one of many wildlife sanctuaries throughout Australia that are working hard to save native wildlife. Like many of these shelters, it receives no funding or support from the Australian government (state or national) and is run entirely by volunteers. The work of carer’s like Jen is important and should be more fully supported by everyone.
Sometimes, especially during periods of culling, the shelter takes in many more orphaned and injured wallabies like Sammi. In an effort to flee the area that is culling, the wallabies will take refuge in vacant paddocks and gardens in the neighborhood. This brings them into closer contact with humans and exposes them to other risks, such as car strikes and dog attacks.
When Sammi arrived at the shelter, she had very limited mobility due to the infection in her heel. She was also suffering from malnutrition, likely caused by the difficulty with which she moved around. Despite this trauma, Sammi was a fighter and tried to fight the exhaustion and hunger to flee from us. This was a good sign that she would survive if only her system could fight off the infection.
There’s no way to know how she hurt her foot. Anything could have caused the injury – getting caught in a fence, being attacked by a dog, being hit by a car, etc. - but it was obvious that the injury got worse as time went on. Her heel was the size of a golf ball and looked like it was filled with puss.
We drained, cleaned and dressed the wound often. We gave Sammi antibiotics to prevent further infections. Tanya phoned a vet and described the situation. He advised that she continue her treatment as he wouldn’t be able to do surgery (if it was needed) until the infection was gone.
When I left the shelter, Sammi was still in care but getting better. Her foot was healing nicely and she spent most of her time exploring in the garden. Hopefully, her injury has healed completely and she is healthy enough to move to a pre-release site to continue her recovery.
Everyday eco-warriors are making a difference in the lives of so many animals. It’s essential to call the Queensland RSPCA’s wildlife hotline (1 300 ANIMAL) when you see wildlife in need. They will dispatch a qualified wildlife carer who can quickly be there to help you.
A family holidaying in South Mission Beach were on their way to the beach when they came across an adult wallaby on the roadside. The mother, Samina, phoned to report seeing movement in the pouch. She thought a joey may still be alive inside but was unsure what to do.
When Tanya and I arrived at the scene, we found Samina and her family surrounding a young female wallaby beside the road. Tanya checked the wallaby, but she had already perished from her injuries. It was obvious that she was a victim of a car strike, which is so common in the area.
Next, Tanya checked the female’s pouch for the live young. The joey was little but fighting to live. She had a few nasty-looking scrapes and her legs and tail weren’t very responsive. We feared she may have broken her back or spine in the accident and needed to get her back to the shelter for a more thorough exam. We quickly thanked the family and named the little joey Samina after her savior.
Back at the shelter, Tanya treated Samina’s injuries to combat infection and gave her a dose of pain killers. Samina’s main issue continued to be her unresponsive legs and tail. But, Tanya couldn’t find any broken bones and hoped it was only swelling around the spine that was limiting Samina’s movements. Tanya decided to keep Samina under observation for the night to see if any mobility returned.
Over the next few days, Samina’s condition improved. She gained full control and movement of her legs and tail. The car strike didn’t seem to affect the way she functioned at all, and she continued to grow stronger.
Without the help of human Samina and her family, wallaby Samina would never have had a chance to live. A simple call to 1 300 ANIMAL, can change the fate of an animal’s life. Who knows how long Samina would have been left in her mother’s pouch before someone noticed her? On her own, she would have starved to death or been killed by a predator. Thanks to Samina and her family, this joey will grow up to be wild again one day.