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Wildlife Rescue Victoria

Home > Melbourne > Animals and Wildlife | Environment
by Sue Stevenson (subscribe)
I write essays, short stories and political commentary and believe the colour orange is unfairly discriminated against.
Published February 16th 2014
Helping suffering animals
If you come across a sick or injured animal in Victoria, it's a stressful situation seeing them suffering and not knowing what to do. The volunteers at Wildlife Rescue Victoria will be able to help, either over the phone (13 000 94535) or by lodging a request for assistance on their website.

In the middle of January, in the early hours of the morning, I heard a strange noise outside my window, one I couldn't place. It was dark out there, though, and as I couldn't see and I was very tired, I went to bed.

Approaching lunchtime the next day, I heard it again. When I looked out the window I could see some sort of animal flapping around on the ground.

I love animals. If you ever want me to cry, show me an animal in distress. It's bushfire season here in Australia, and while my heart goes out to people who suffer, it also goes out to the animals whose homes and lives are so often ruined, who can't always escape in time. While animals do sense when, for example, an earthquake or a tsunami is coming and will move to safer ground, bushfires are often so fast-moving that animals cannot escape in time. My heart breaks 100 breaks when I think of this. The suffering of animals, whether human or otherwise, is the suckiest thing about living on this planet.

I could not refuse to go out to see what was happening, but I was also totally apprehensive. And there, making little squawking noises and trying to flap his wings to move, was an owl. Of what type I knew not. I felt a bit panicky wondering what I should do. I didn't want to make it worse by stressing this guy by coming closer, but neither could I just leave him there. He seemed stuck in the bramble of wandering jew that has invaded that corner of the garden, and so I tried to clear it away and then leave him time to get free, in case he was simply stuck.

I went inside to try to find some more information. I really didn't know what else to do or who could help me. A search yielded Wildlife Rescue's website and the Report an Emergency button, and though it was the middle of January and holiday season within 20 minutes I'd had a response from one of the many volunteers who work to keep this organisation running, bless their bamboo socks off. They identified that he was a tawny frogmouth (which I discovered is actually not an owl), that I should keep an eye on him and throw a towel over him if some of the surrounding birds in the trees kept harassing him. Within a couple of hours of my initial lodgement, volunteer Vicki Clark was at my place, with a carrier with a towel on top, and she transported him off to the vet.

tawny frogmouth, owl, Australian birds, Mt Royal National Park, Doug Beckers
A healthy tawny frogmouth. Pic by Doug Beckers

tawny frogmouth, Wildlife Rescue, Australian birds, Australian wildlife, owl
Our poor little bloke before Vicki from Wildlife Rescue took him to the vet

Vicki kept me in the loop, calling me afterwards to tell me that unfortunately the poor little tacker had died while waiting at the vet's to be checked. He had been weakened - when she picked him up off the ground at my place, his talons didn't grab onto her finger like they usually would. He had some sort of fungus growth in his mouth. In short, she thought that something had been going on with him during the previous week so that when he came to rest on the ground outside my window, he was simply too weak to go on.

It was sad, and I shed a tear for the little bloke, but I'm glad that at least we did what we could to try to help him.

Wildlife Victoria receives 200 calls and website requests such as mine every single day. In peak periods it can go up to 300. In the recent January heatwave, when temps flattened us all out at over 41C for five days, the Emergency Response Service received 2,932 calls, with a whopping 871 in just one day.

Vicki Clark has been volunteering with the Service for several months. A couple of weeks before she came to me she'd helped rescue another tawny frogmouth a few suburbs away who'd been stuck in a fence. When he was rescued, he spent the day being vet checked and in the care of Carol at Monbulk Wildlife Shelter. As soon as he was returned to the property, he promptly few into the property next door and divebombed into the creek.

"I can't imagine what was going through the elderly couple's minds when we turned up knocking frantically on their door at 9.30pm. When he'd been in the water for so long as we searched the creek we honestly thought he'd become a recovery rather than a rescue. We at least wanted to give him a burial.

"I will never forget the lady's screams as he moved. Her running up the property with him to get him towels as we made our way up the bank. He wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for their willingness to help. I returned the following day and gave them a small gift of a plant, a photo of the tawny and a card saying that I hoped every time they saw it flower that they're reminded of the life they helped save.

"Its something I'll always carry with me, knowing there are good people out there who are willing to go the extra mile to help an animal in need."

There are over 1500 volunteers for the Service, which receives no government funding and relies on donations. My experience with them was 100 different kinds of very cool ~ though sad ~ awesomeness.

Here's a tawny trying to get some sleep before some curious interloping humans with cameras intervened.

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Phone: 13 000 94535
Where: Suite 3, 288 Brunswick Street Fitzroy VIC 3065
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