Wildlife rescuer and carer
Penny Walsh is a volunteer with WIRES in NSW’s Southern Highlands and has turned her 50-acre property into a wildlife rehabilitation and care centre. Penny says that caring for injured wildlife has become a full-time passion.
”I was brought up in a very ecologically-minded family.
Even as a young child I was interested in caring for animals. I remember self-initiated, though completely unnecessary, weekly health checks carried out on our family’s feathered and furry pets.
When my partner and I moved back to the Highlands, I decided it was time to follow my longstanding interest in Australian wildlife, and in 2015 I joined WIRES. With WIRES I have completed training in koala care and rehabilitation at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, as well as rehab and care courses for birds, wombats, macropods (kangaroos and wallabies), possums and most recently, raptors (eagles).
We have used our savings to help build the facilities we need and often joke that the animals have better facilities than we do. Caring for wildlife is very time-consuming. You can’t simply pop out for dinner or go away for the weekend if you’re caring for an injured or sick animal. But we love what we do and have put a lot of effort and thought into the construction of our facilities including transport boxes, wombat and koala recovery pens, an intensive care room and a large pre-release yard for koalas with 2 mature eucalypts.
I love the process of what we do. It is so fulfilling to see an animal that you’ve cared for released back into the wild.
Koalas come into my care if they’ve been struck by a vehicle, or if they’re sick with Chlamydia or have been injured by a dog. It can be heart-breaking to see the effects of Chlamydia or injuries that they have sustained, but over the last 18 months, we have managed to successfully care for and release 4 koalas – Koko, Kitty, Katie and Khloe.
I still remember when Koko came to us. He had a broken leg and 4 broken toes after being hit by a car. Because of Koko’s injuries, his rehabilitation was quite extensive. He underwent 2 separate surgeries which involved the reduction and pinning of his fractured bones. During his time in care, Koko progressed through each of our housing facilities, from intensive care through to the final stage of his rehabilitation which was spent building up his strength in our koala yard. After 14 months Koko was completely fit and healthy, and on 8 December 2017 he was released back into the wild – it was one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had.
I plan to keep caring for koalas as long as I physically can. Australia’s wildlife need our help. While caring for injured and sick wildlife isn’t for everyone, there is plenty you can do to assist, including donating to your local animal rehabilitation branch or volunteering your time to help on your local rehabilitation committee.
”I love the process of what we do. It is so fulfilling to see an animal that you’ve cared for released back into the wild.