Wildlife rehabilitation in Australia can be quite different than that in the U.S. Aussie rehabbers, referred to as wildlife carers, don’t necessarily have the luxury of a big facility, or often any facility at all, in which to care for the many animals in need. Many carers are home-based or run small facilities, round-the-clock. They pour most of their time and love into every animal that comes through their doors. Often they are miles away from veterinarians or other services, in the middle of the Outback or other remote areas, having to take matters into their own hands, whatever scenario unfolds. As you drive down a local highway, you often see a sign with a number for local wildlife carers. This is important as you never know when a marsupial, or any other animal, might jump in front of your car, get caught in a fence or otherwise need human help. Often there is a small group of wildlife carers who take turns manning the phone lines until the wee hours of the morning and responding accordingly, calling in another who specializes in certain species, or knows how to handle certain situations.
I have been privileged to have friends in Australia who are wildlife carers, and to make new ones on my many trips there. I am constantly in awe of their dedication to the cause, and as a fellow lover of wildlife and all animals, I am forever in gratitude to them for the lengths they are wiling to go to assist animals in need. They live the St. Francis of Assisi creed about our animal brethren that has always been a part of my own life – ‘a higher mission - to be of service to them wherever they require it."
There are 2 special wildlife carers in the Queensland Tablelands for whom I am especially grateful – one of them is Jenny and her service to the bats of Australia in the Tolga Bat Hospital. Often people around the world know little about bats and the great contributions they make to our ecosystem, Jenny was not only drawn to macro- and micro-bats but felt a special calling to open an entire center dedicated to their care. It’s a beautiful, special facility that my beloved friend Tissa called to my attention several years ago. I couldn’t wait to visit – and when I did, and finally met Jenny - knowing the many sacrifices she has and still makes, and especially for such maligned animals - I was brought to tears. Jenny spends countless hours caring for these special mammals, and being in her presence with them, I feel the compassion she has for them, and their suffering. The bats themselves are amazing creatures. I was especially drawn to the Flying Fox Bats from my very first visit to Australia many years ago. Seeing a bat with a 4-foot wingspan is not something most Americans get to see; and when I did I was immediately captivated! Ironically, I kept thinking of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. ;-)
The bats suffer from many ailments and issues. For example, the Flying Fox Bats often get caught in certain netting that some homeowners use to protect their fruit trees. Not only does Jenny (and others) help the injured bats; they also help to educate the public about the right kind of netting to protect their fruit trees while also keeping the bats safely at bay. They are amazing mammals for many reasons that you can read about, but they are also incredibly entertaining. If you ever have the wonderful opportunity to experience them in the wild, just sit and watch their antics as they chatter with one another, argue over their respective inch on the tree limb, snuggle up inside their wings to nap, or peer out at you in curiosity. I hope you get the chance to experience them, and even better to visit the Tolga Bat Hospital – especially during baby season!!! – or any similar facility caring for these amazing creatures.
As always, be sure to contact your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find an animal in need. And if you live in an area with fruit bats and want to protect your fruit trees, please be kind and use bat-safe netting to do so. There are always humane options to live in harmony with the animals with whom we are privileged to share our world -