“They are all my kids”

Lachie, an orphaned wallaby, whose mother was hit by a car (Photo: Sunny Liu)

” When they are gone, they are gone. And there’s no way of coming back.” Joan says.

Lachie at 300gms and eyes open, came into care when he weighed 159gms 

Little wallaby Lachie is now being taken care of by Joan Reid, an experienced volunteer from an animal rescue organisation called Sydney Wildlife.  Lachie, named after the volunteer who rescued him, was found on a very wet Sunday morning. The city was pouring with rain. His mother was hit by a car and the orphan baby was being thrown out of her pouch onto the road. He was covered in bruises. At that time Joan was at a fundraising barbeque. When she got little Lachie, he was hairless, very fragile. She quickly cuddled him with a towel and kept him warm. It was in February.

His dedicated new “mum” will look after him until he’s around 13 months old, after which he will move to a rehab facility centre to be de-humanised before going back into the wild.

Joan Reid & wombat Mulan 
Joan was nursing animals in her twenties when she met actress Zsa Zsa Gabor 

Time flies; it is Joan’s 10th year of her rescuing life. During these ten years, she has saved and managed to send hundreds of animals back to nature. Being with animals is an indispensable part of her life. Before becoming a rescuer, she’s been nursing animals for 25 years in a zoo, and now she works at a school canteen. Joan has become an animal lover since she was a little girl. Her parents bought her three cats and four dogs. She was so happy every moment being with them.

Another wombat called Mulan was gravely ill when she was first picked up by the side of the road. And the vets diagnosed her illness as septicemia. She nearly died. But Joan let the poor critter lodge in her house and gave her medications.  Now she is living healthily and happily under the care of Joan.

Just like Lachie and Mulan, each injured, orphan animal has a sad story of their own. Some were simply thrown out and ended up on the side of a road. For the injured ones, volunteers need to take them to the vet and then treat the animal with medication in their own home.

“Especially in spring, I get lots and lots. I can have 10 or 12 animals at home” Joan says. Like many fellow volunteers, Joan rehabilitates these sick, injured or orphaned native animals at home and releases them back into their natural habitat when they are healthy. Volunteers invest lots of time, money and efforts in these animals.

Mulan weighed just 600gms 
Mulan growing fast
The day before Mulan went to a rehab facility 

“But there is nothing better when you have an orphaned or injured animal, and you are able to nurse it back to full health and see them go back into wild which is a fabulous rewarding experience and you know you’ve done something really good for the environment.”

Life for a rescuer is not always easy. Sometimes, volunteers have to go to a dam to rescue a wallaby and get them out before they drown. Cars are the most horrendous thing when volunteers try to save animals, because mostly they don’t stop or the drivers don’t understand what they are doing. Sometimes at night, volunteers try to rescue something in a bush. They can be easily scratched by branches. That’s why, before becoming a part of the rescue team, they have to complete a basic rescue and care course. Most important is learning how to protect themselves before protecting the wildlife.

The problem is, Joan is not a veterinarian, and sometimes the animals need treatment which can only be provided by a professional veterinary surgeon. “At the moment we are really burdening our local vets with injured animals, and they have to bear the medical costs and most of the time volunteers use their own money,” she says. “The funds donated by people are far from enough and it’s too hard to get money from the government.” Joan says her dream is to establish a mobile dedicated veterinary clinic for native wildlife.

Helping these native animals is increasingly important. Due to the construction of roads, apartments and houses,  habitats for native animals are damaged. Accidental death is a serious problem. According to a report from Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), over 7000 animals are killed or hurt on NSW roads every day.  75 million native animals get killed or injured every night across Australia. Over one-third of the mammal species are becoming extinct. Australia is considered as a country of fertile land and vast biodiversity. But if they are dying at this rate, future generations might have to see these lovely critters in a museum.

When asking Joan about how she can balance her daytime job and her rescue work, she burst into laughter and gushed: “Sometimes badly, sometimes very badly. The wildlife seem to win out all the time. I can hardly tell which one is voluntary and which one is my paid job now.”

 I’d probably have a lot more money than I do now if I didn’t start rescuing wildlife. But the life would be kind of boring.

Joan also mentioned that her boss is very friendly and allows her to bring an animal to work and put it into a separate room. Joan then can feed the animal with bottles every two hours.  To make up the time to feed the animal, she also usually starts working earlier.

Also being a mother of two children, the family sometimes complains about her – not because she carries too many wildlife back home, but for spending too much time with the animals. “Sometimes my family feels the animal and the fundraising is more important than they are – which isn’t true,” she says.

Volunteers need to do specialised training for these animals and make sure that they do have the ability to live normally and independently. For the wombat, they have a lot of natural bushes to climb on and the volunteers try to keep a certain distance from them so they don’t rely on humans and end up being caught quickly when going back to nature. The same applies to birds. They have big cages for them and train them to fly around, and so they can get muscle strength and be stronger and faster when put out to the wild. “If they are not surviving once we have put them in the wild, then why were we doing it?”

For me, it is always difficult if you lose an animal and some of them we just can’t save, to me that is very difficult. But I told myself that’s something you have to deal with and pick yourself up and try to save the next one.


♥ JOAN’S TIPS FOR HELPING OUR WILDLIFE ♥ 

a. Keep your cat and dogs inside at night

b.Do not risk your safety when rescue.

                          c. Take the injured to your nearest veterinary

                          d.  Call rescue organisation such as Sydney Wildlife or WIRES

For More Wildlife Road Safety Tips

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