Since joining the shelter, I have experienced many highs and lows and can only wonder how a person can exist in this way indefinitely. Major props go out to wildlife carers everywhere for the emotional, financial and physical sacrifices they make every day for the animals they love.
One of the hardest things to cope with, especially in Mission Beach, is the high number of deaths each day. The weekends can often be very brutal with casualty numbers soaring because people have imbibed.
Many female road kill victims carry in their pouches tiny joeys who are left motherless and alone if not for these wildlife carers. Checking each carcass, these volunteers search the pouches for young in hopes that they can save them.
However, even if carers recover these babies, it is definitely no guarantee that they’ll live. Some babies, like Scott, are so tiny that they are literally half the size of your palm. They have no fur and their skin is extremely soft and pink. Their eyes haven’t developed enough to open yet, and their ears are folded and stuck to their heads.
When I first saw Scott, I couldn’t believe he was so small. Logically, I know that when female macropods give birth, their babies are as tiny as a jellybean. Given this knowledge, Scott’s actually done well for himself. But, without his mother’s protection and sustenance, it is up to wildlife carers to replicate everything she would give to him.
This is a monstrous task, a constant uphill battle that could go bad at any moment. Even when you think things are going well – successful rounds of feedings and proper colored waste – you never really know. When the joeys are this small, every day that they live is a success. You focus on short-term goals – surviving the first night, then the first five days, then a week – and with each milestone you pass, you want to pump your fist into the air and do a victory dance.
But Mother Nature is cruel sometimes. She can raise your spirits only to break you down again by showing you the harsh realities of life. In Scott’s case, he survived almost two weeks after being rescued. We thought his difficult days were behind us as he was eating well and pooping it all out just to start again. He even opened his eyes a few days after coming in, and we were finally able to see those glossy obsidian eyes of his. But, then one day, he just didn’t wake up in the morning. He must have passed away sometime during the night. We couldn’t find a reason for it. It just happened.
The loss of his life was sad and, I believe, undeserved. But, in the greater scheme of things, Scott is just another casualty in Mission Beach. It might be more personal because he spent time with us, but all the other animals who die on the streets are just as important as Scott. Their lives are just as meaningful, and they deserve the chance to survive as much as the next living being. It’s a shame that people (and the government) aren’t more conscious of the effect they have on the environment as they move forward with plans for urbanization or agricultural development.