29 November 2023

Carers needed urgently to look after wombats

| Sally Hopman
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While Ian Thorpe, the wombat, recovers under the watchful eye of his carer, Brooke Trotter, more people are needed to help look after the native animals. Photo: Wongaburrows Wombats.

Wildlife groups are in crisis, with one of the most dedicated Canberra carers saying there is little choice now but to call out for help.

Yolandi Vermaak from ACT Wombat Rescue said it was time to admit that the situation was dire.

“How else can we fix it?” she asked.

READ ALSO So how do you save a drowning wombat? You call your mum

Yolandi said wombat carers, in particular, were under enormous stress, with one volunteer she knew of caring for eight animals at the same time.

“Some wombat coordinators in other groups are struggling because they get animals in but have nowhere to send them,” she said.

“And, no, we can’t send a rescued baby to just anyone. You want to be as sure as possible that your wombat goes to a good carer and be sure they will be raised, rehabilitated and released properly.

“If the small handful of current wombat carers stop being carers, where are these animals going to go?”

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Yolandi said caring for wombats could be challenging, describing it as not the easiest job in the world.

“First off, if you have a pinkie [a newborn], it’s a two-year commitment. You also have to think ahead to when they will be 20 kg.

“Do you have a large enough backyard to build a big enough enclosure for them? I’d say at least 8 by 8 or 60 square metres is the minimum; otherwise, it would be hard for them to be cooped up.”

Yolandi said it was also important for the carers to be available at all hours to feed and play with the animals. Working in an office full-time was not conducive to being a wildlife carer, nor was it a good idea to try to raise them alone.

“They need a buddy, so carers need to be willing and able to take on two wombats to give them that buddy.

“They are also then less dependent on their human and have a buddy to keep them company. Mentally, they develop better if buddied.”

Think you’ve got what it takes to save a wombat? Visit Wombat Rescue.

Woman holding large wombat

Yolandi Vermaak gives Ian Thorpe the once-over after he was rescued from the Coombes pond. Photo: Wongaburrows Wombats.

Update on “Ian Thorpe”: The wombat rescued by ACT Wombat Rescue last week continues to recover slowly, thanks to his dedicated carer, Brooke Trotter.

“We have put him in what we call a hospital pen, which is a small enclosure so he doesn’t over-exert himself, and he is under the watchful, brilliant care of Brooke,” Yolandi said.

Named Ian Thorpe because he managed to stay afloat, swimming around in circles when he fell into a pond at Coombes, the wombat weighs a hefty 35 kg. Had he not been saved by Diana Perriman on her kayak, he would likely have died, according to Yolandi.

“We are still a little concerned about his lungs, but it is expected, given how much water he inhaled, so we’re keeping a watchful eye on him and continuing with the antibiotics,” she said.

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