Monthly Archives: November 2013

Feeding and Toileting Joeys

When a young orphaned joey like Chrissy comes into our care, we must take over the loving and nurturing duties usually held by her mother and the rest of the mob. These duties also include feeding and toileting the babies.

After the initial medical check, we try to give the joeys a bit of milk formula. Tanya has different sizes of glass bottles and silicone teats that match the age and development of the joeys.

Despite this, it can still be hard to get the babies to drink. The milk doesn’t taste like mum’s milk; the teat doesn’t feel like mum’s teat. The joeys are often still experiencing some shock from the accident hat took their mothers’ life. Sometimes it takes several attempts before achieving a successful feeding.

Once the babies learn that the milk is nourishment, some can be extremely demanding. They quickly learn when each feeding takes place and sometimes cry as soon as they hear you preparing their food in the kitchen. They’re such cheeky buggers!

After each feeding, it’s important to make sure they use the bathroom. If they were still with mum, she would stimulate their cloaca by licking it. This would encourage them to pee and poo. Mum would then lick that up to keep her baby clean

Since their mother isn’t here, carers imitate her actions to keep a healthy baby. Hard-core wildlife carers will use their finger to lightly tickle the joey’s cloaca. It usually doesn’t take long for them to do their business. You can also use a tissue or toilet paper and get the same results (and I think it’s a lot more sanitary).

I was quite nervous when Tanya taught me to toilet Chrissy. She was so tiny and wiggled around a bit. I was afraid I’d drop her! It was also very awkward to hold her as she was mostly all legs with a big head.

But, I soon learned that joeys are extremely flexible and you can easily lift their legs up to get to their cloaca. It was a new experience for the both of us, and once we realized what we were both supposed to do things got better.

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Relocating Snakes to the Wild

Many people who move to Mission Beach enjoy being surrounded by nature and the rainforest. However, they do not expect to find nature inside their homes. When residents find a snake in their house or shed, they often ring the shelter and ask for us to relocate it back into the wild.

Tanya is more than happy to come to their aid. A sad alternative is when people decide to remove the snake on their own, which often means killing it. Should the snake be venomous, inexperienced people put themselves at risk of being bitten, which can be life-threatening in some circumstances.

When she gets a call, Tanya tries to assess the snake and situation over the phone. What does it look like? How long is it? Where is and what has it been doing? These simple questions help decide what type of snake is there and how she proceeds.

The most popular type of snakes seem to be scrub pythons, brown tree snakes and green tree snakes. If the snake is large, she needs more assistance and usually asks Karlie, a long-time shelter volunteer and snake lover, for help. It can be difficult to capture a three-meter snake on your own without getting wrapped up, so two people are able to make sure everyone’s safe. Together the women work as a team to capture and move the snake back to the wild.

I have accompanied Tanya and Karlie on a few of these snake rescues to learn more about the process. It’s really interesting, from a psychological and sociological perspective, to watch the residents react to what Tanya and Karlie do. Most of the people who call dislike all snakes or are really frightened by them. They definitely think Tanya and Karlie are insane to touch the snakes, even though most of the calls are for non-venomous baby snakes.

Of course, living in Australia, there are many snakes (among other things) that can kill you. It pays to be cautious and call an expert. However, I thought locals would learn the differences between poisonous and non-poisonous varieties in school (especially in Far North Queensland where nature is everywhere). But perhaps this is a bad assumption? Maybe it’s all the movies that make snakes out to be villains? Or, it could be the religious symbolism given to snakes that portray them as representatives of evil? I’m not sure where the ingrained fear comes.

Many of the snakes I saw have beautiful scale patterns and coloring, and I appreciate their physical beauty as I would any other animal. I wouldn’t touch or remove wild snakes unless I was fully trained to know the different species but viewing them from afar is magical. It’s unfortunate that they get such a bad rap as they’re really amazing creatures.

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Dog Attacks Threaten Mission Beach Agile Wallaby Population

In Mission Beach, neighborhood dogs allowed to roam the streets by their owners threaten the agile wallaby population every day. Some dog owners ignore laws forbidding this practice and continue to expose native wildlife, as well as their own animals, to danger.

Agile wallaby rescued after possible dog attack

Agile wallaby rescued after possible dog attack

The loose dogs chase and scare all native wildlife, especially the mobs of agile wallabies in this area. As I mentioned in my last post, wallabies can die from myopathy brought on in highly stressful situations. In even worse scenarios, the dogs capture the animals and thrash them around. Sometimes they corner a wallaby in a garden or against a fenced in area before going in for the kill.

Thorough examination of all animals is compulsory for new arrivals

Thorough examination of all animals is compulsory for new arrivals

Because of the tremendous lack of owner responsibility, these dogs can become violent. People have seen them chasing after cars and children on bicycles. Some may say that the dogs are simply doing what is in their nature. However, when you become a dog owner (or take on the care of any domestic pet for that matter) you must train it to abide by rules to maintain the safety of your friends and neighbors. Who is to say that a dog who attacks a wallaby (for fun) will not attack a child (for fun) in the same way?

Feeling for broken bones

Feeling for broken bones

The shelter often receives calls from the community reporting a dog chasing and/or attacking a wallaby. Usually, the dog is long gone by the time we arrive, but the wallaby left freaked out of its mind. Like every incoming animal, Tanya examines it for injuries and then decides how to treat it.

Checking leg and hip joint

Checking leg and hip joint

Sometimes, like in this case, the wallaby has minor injuries and just needs a bit of time to recuperate before being released back into the wild. Other times the injuries are too severe and the wallaby is taken to the vet and euthanized.

Injury to leg

Injury to leg

In addition to injuries sustained by the dog attack, wallabies can run into fences or walls in their desperate attempt to escape. Depending on their surroundings, the wallaby could get caught up in construction equipment, gardening implements and other dangerous things as they try to flee. These obstacles can cause cuts and broken bones. The likelihood that the panicked wallaby will be hit by a car also increases.

Examining injured agile wallaby

Examining injured agile wallaby

If an agile wallaby lives long enough, it will probably endure more than one dog attack. This wallaby appears to have old bite wounds on its feet and legs as well as the fresh marks from today’s attack.

Injuries to her feet and legs

Injuries to her feet and legs

Wallabies are not the only animals in danger when dogs roam freely in the streets. The dogs themselves are at risk of being struck by a car when they are loose. They may dash into traffic on the road in their attempt to capture a wallaby. They may even seek out other dogs and engage them in fights for territory. Worse, they may for packs that patrol the streets as if they own them.

Punctures from dog bites

Punctures from dog bites

I am thoroughly confounded that dog owners allow their pets to wander around unsupervised, but it seems like an acceptable practice here. According to the Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s Animal Management website, it “aims to help people resolve animal management issues and has a duty to maintain a safe environment for everyone in the community and to ensure animals do not create health or safety problems.” But it seems like they’ll have their hands full if residents continue to allow their animals to run loose in the streets.

Close-up view of injured feet

Close-up view of injured feet

Members of the public can file a complaint if they see loose dogs in their neighborhood. By calling 1300 763 903, you can give a detailed statement and a law enforcement officer will investigate the incident. They will also keep you informed of the outcome of their investigation. This is a good way to keep your community safe.

Spray with medicine to eliminate ticks and bush lice

Spray with medicine to kill ticks and bush lice

After examining the injured wallaby, Tanya sprays her with tick and lice medicine and gives her pain killers to help numb the injuries. It will dull the pain and hopefully give the wallaby a bit of a reprieve and calm her down.

Tanya and Brittany

Tanya and Brittany

Throughout the examination, Tanya talks Brittany and I through the procedure. Like myself, Brittany is an animal lover. She often visits the shelter to help us out. She, and many others like her, are the future of nature conservation and animal rehabilitation. It’s amazing to see her interest and knowledge grow each time she volunteers at the shelter.

Pain killer given as needed

Pain killer given as needed

Besides learning about the injured animals, Brittany helps us during feedings. She’s already a pro at it but is eager to learn and do more. She and her dad have also rescued their fair share of injured animals and brought them into the shelter for care.

Administering pain killer

Administering pain killer

Many of the animals that come to us as a result of dog attacks could be saved if people would just keep their dogs in their yards. However, many homes do not have fences or walls surrounding their properties. I haven’t worked out the reasoning behind this yet – whether it is purely an aesthetic choice or maybe the cost is too high – but it’s common to see no physical boundaries around one’s property here.

Old dog bite injuries

Old dog bite injuries

However, there are other options available to people other than putting up fences. They can make a large dog run with a line along the back or side of their properties to give their animal enough room to roam but not enough to cause serious harm to others.

Resting in isolation

Resting in isolation

It’s hard to explain the attitude that people have toward domesticated animals and wildlife here in Mission Beach. It is ever-changing and, of course, differs from person to person. I suppose some people view dogs as dispensable property and wallabies as pests. Others are more conscientious pet owners and animal lovers in general. Despite this divide, I think there is room for both groups to compromise for the betterment and safety of the community.

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