Rena and Joe are long term conservationists who have dedicated their lives to protecting forests and looking after injured and orphaned wildlife. They have turned their small property in Goongerah, East Gippsland, into an incredible wildlife shelter, building rehabilitation enclosures for wallabies, possums, gliders, kookaburras, lyre birds, magpies, wombats, goannas and heaps of other animals - the animals have better accommodation than Rena and Joe.
Rena and Joe spend nearly all their time and cash picking up animals, collecting and preparing their food and feeding and caring for them. It's a massive job and they've been doing it all on their own.
Wallabia and Joe and Rena's house burnt down in the Goongerah fire
While there is a wombat orphanage in Goongerah, the Wallabia Wildlife Shelter is the only one that can look after all the other species, including endangered species like the greater glider. The closest multiple species wildlife carer is almost 2 hour's drive south and there are no carers to the north in Victoria.
There are only 6 active wildlife shelters in all of Far East Gippsland - covering 1 million hectares and they do not all cater for all species like Wallabia.
As the area is rugged, driving is slow. Rena and Joe have driven over 2 hours to rescue goannas and wedge-tail eagles in remote areas. Joe is the only experienced reptile carer/handler until Mallacoota or Lakes Entrance and often travels great distances for these rescues. Rena and Joe are the closest carers to the Snowy Wilderness and receive lots of remote calls to rescue animals.
On Monday 30 December Joe and Rena's house and the wildlife shelter burnt down in intense bushfires that burned huge areas of forest in Goongerah and surrounds.
Wildlife care isn't cheap
It's not cheap looking after wildlife and for over a decade Rena and Joe have done it practically on their own with the occasional wildlife carers grant to help fund building enclosures. This is pretty incredible considering they can only work casual hours to be able to care for the animals, and choose to work in conservation jobs which don't pay the big bucks. It can cost them up to $10,000 a year to take care of rescued wildlife.
Here's an idea of the many costs involved that they've been covering themselves for around 20 to 30 animals a year:
Basic food costs for orphan animals (cost for 1 animal)
- wallaby - $500 milk, $15 teat and bottles, $15 supplement food
- wombat - $250 milk, $15 teat and bottles, $200 supplement food
- brushtail possums - $50 milk, $60 supplement food
- sugar glider - $15 milk, $60 supplements
- magpies - $30
Injured animals cost different amounts depending on species and time. Some examples are:
- microbat - $30 meal worms, insectore mix, special vitamins
- yellow-bellied glider in care for 5 weeks - $90 food
- greater glider in care for 4 weeks - $60 petrol costs collecting food
- superb lyre bird in care for 3 days - $25 in worms
- kookaburra - $30 food
- magpie - $10 food
Rena and Joe drive large distances to rescue animals, buy the food they need. Some animals like possums and gliders eat fresh gum leaves. Collecting this vegetation takes many hours, especially since large fires in Goongerah have wiped out the needed vegetation for some animals.
Yearly vet bills and enclosures
Yearly vet bills for injured animals cost around $1000 for medecine and pathology. All animals need enclosures. These cost $1000s and are built by Rena and Joe, but can be used over and over again.
What it takes to care for wildlife
20-30 animals a year might not sound like a lot, but once you understand what it takes to care for rescued wildlife, it's hard to imagine how Rena and Joe do it.
Orphan marsupials sometimes spend a year in care and are high maintenance. Sometimes Rena and Joe are providing 20 milk feeds a day. At the moment they are providing 12 milk feeds a day and collecting a ute full of vegetation every 2 days, plus 7 supplement feeds.
Enclosures need to stay full of fresh vegetation for possums, gliders and wallabies and wombats need fresh grass daily. Some animals need live insects like moths that Rena and Joe buy and catch.
Enclosures need to be cleaned of pooh, old vegetation and topped up with fresh water daily.
Orphan wallabies need stimulation so need to be walked about the bush when young or they get bored and depressed. Orphan wombats need to be walked around the territory they are being released into to get used to their surrounds. Possums and gliders need multiple nest boxes built. Often hard wood is used for longevity which is heavy and expensive and takes a while to make.
Rena spends a minimum of 7 hours a day on the 6 animals currently in care, however in busy times this can increase to 12 hours (yes, she has no time to eat and lives on toast). Rena and Joe are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week to pick up animals. They also spend heaps of time volunteering with the local conservation group educating people about threatened forests and animals to help protect them from logging.
What happens to wildlife without shelters?
Injured and orphaned wildlife need specialist care. Without enough animal carers, wildlife do not get rescued or they are taken in by people who don't know how to care for them - usually to the detriment of the animal. Birds are often starved as people feed them live food but cannot get enough; prey animals are exposed to their natural predators (pet dogs and cats) which is horribly stressful for them. Marsupials are given cow’s milk causing intestinal problems. Orphan wallabies and kangaroos are not given pouches and are therefore highly stressed. People don’t know when the animals are ill from stress resulting in unnecessary deaths.
You can help save wildlife!
By donating funds to the Wallabia Wildlife Shelter you can make sure that Rena and Joe can take on injured and orphaned wildlife when they get a rescue call. Every bit will help. It costs around $10,000 a year for a full house. If you can help us raise $20,000, Wallabia Shelter will have some financial security for the next two years.
There are not many people who would dedicate their lives, almost all their time and money to look after wildlife. Rena and Joe deserve all the support they can get to carry on this incredible work. Our declining and endangered wildlife need all the help they can get. Please donate now!
Here's a list of all the different species Wallabia have rescued so far
Swamp wallaby, Bare-nosed Wombat, Eastern Grey- Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby, Ring-tailed Possum, Brush-tailed possum, Mountain Brush-tailed Possum, Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Gider, Sugar Glider, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Long-nosed potoroo, Long-nosed bandicoot, Lesser-long-eared Bat, Gould’s Wattle Bat, Little Forest Bat, Eastern False Pipistrelle (Bat), Australian Magpie, Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Grey Currawong, Satin Bowerbird, Horsefield Bronze- Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Welcome Swallow, Aust. King Parrot, Galah, Crimpson Rosella, Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, Sacred King Fisher, Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Red Wattle Bird, Superb Lyre Bird, Lewin’s Rail, Grey-shrike thrush, Eastern Whipbird, Australian Wood Duck, Tree Goanna, Marbled Gecko, Spenser’s Skink, Alpine Copper Head, Red-bellied Black Snake.