Almost two years after being rescued by ACT Wildlife, wombats Tina and Sylvie have finally been released back into the wild.
“You get the wombats as these very fragile, very vulnerable little creatures that will die without your intervention,” ACT Wildlife coordinator Lindy Butcher said.
“Then when you help them become big and healthy again, and let them go back to where they belong. It’s very satisfying.
“For me, it’s all about trying to put back something that was lost in the environment as a result of human habitation and minimising the loss of wombats that we already have. Seeing them go through this release is just so amazing.”
Lindy Butcher has been involved with Wildlife ACT for more than 25 years and has since helped rehabilitate and raise 20 wombats.
On 2 December 2020, she rescued Sylvie the wombat, who was a baby and weighed only 390 grams.
Five months later, on 13 April 2021, Lindy took Tina into care. Tina weighed 4.8 kilograms and was suffering from severe mange.
“As the coordinator, it’s my job to help the wombats become stable and settled,” Lindy said.
“Then, once they’re ready for longer-term care, I pass them on to another carer to continue to raise them until they’re ready to be released into the wild.
“I had cared for Sylvie for about a month and Tina for about six weeks, then I passed them on to our carer Sharon Woodward, who looked after them up until now.”
Lindy said when she first took Tina in, mange had affected her skin badly.
“Picking her up made her skin crack open and bleed,” she said.
“So I really had to be careful handling her.
“But she’s healthy and beautiful now and has returned to her playful self.”
Once Lindy helped Tina recover from mange, she passed her to Sharon, along with Sylvie.
Before being released back into the wild, the wombats have to pass a few tests.
“One of our indicators is that they’re big enough and weigh around 20 kilos or more,” Linda said.
“They also need to be fully nocturnal and be eating predominantly grasses as their main food and not seek out their carers.
“If we go out to their enclosure during the day and call them and they don’t come to us, that’s also a sign that they’re independent and ready to be in the wildlife again.”
Tina now weighs 19 kilos and Sylvie, 21 kilos.
Wildlife ACT carer Sharon Woodward said it was a bitter-sweet moment releasing the wombats.
“They have been beautiful to care for, but now they are ready to go,” Sharon said.
“Sylvie has been a character from the moment I started caring for her and she has not changed. Tina is a much more serious wombat, but living in her own way.
“I will miss them immensely and I’m so lucky to have had them in my life.”
Lindy said one of the real pleasures of caring for the wombats is that they’re such joyful animals.
“When we first had Tina come into our care, we found she must have been quite traumatised as she never showed any signs of joy,” she said.
“For her to now start showing signs of happiness meant that she was clearly recovered. She was free of pain, free of infection, and that was an indicator that she was doing well physically and emotionally.
“Now after the release, all of our wombat carers construct a large escape-proof enclosure with space for the wombats to dig burrows, graze and practice their normal behaviours. Then they monitor them with video cameras for several weeks after, which is something we aim to do with Sylvie and Tina.”
To become a carer or volunteer for the wombats in the ACT Wildlife Mange Management Program, visit ACT Wildlife.