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Orphaned birds get a second chance

Whistling kites rescued from Winton Wetlands are being rasied alongside joeys, wombats and possums at the North East Wildlife Rescue Centre in Benalla

LIBBY PRICE July 24, 2014 3:20am

Whistling kite from Winton Wetlands.


North East Wildlife Rescue in Benalla has been working hard to try to save three whistling kites brought in from the Winton Wetlands four weeks ago.

One of the young birds had to be put down by a vet last week when it developed a neurological problem and lost the use of its legs. The remaining two birds have been doing well and have begun attempts at flying.

The kites were brought to the rescue centre after their nest was destroyed when a tree fell over. The mother was nowhere to be seen and a ranger made the special delivery.

Shirley Steegstra runs the wildlife foster centre from her home in Benalla and has been feeding the birds using tweezers.

‘‘When the kites are flying and feeding in the next few weeks when they’re about three months old we hope to take them back to the wetlands. These are the first birds we’ve rescued from there,’’ she said.

Mrs Steegstra has been fostering native animals for more than a decade and began with two birds — a rosella and a tawny frogmouth.

‘‘Both died. I was devastated,’’ she said.

‘‘It wasn’t a great start as a foster carer.’’

It certainly didn’t deter her, though. The house has only been without native wildlife for six weeks out of the past 12 years.

The ‘pinkies’ are the hardest work. They’re the joeys who come in often as a result of the mother being killed on the road. The hairless babies have to be fed every three to four hours; 10pm is usually the last feed and 7am the first, so the Steegstras can get some sleep.

Kangaroos also take a lot longer to raise before they can be set free, and often don’t get accepted back into mobs.

At the moment there’s a young brushtail possum — found at Benalla P-12 College — that requires feeding every several hours until the little possum can fend for itself.

Wombats and wallabies are much easier. There are currently three wombats at the shelter: Zoe (aka Fatty), Rocky and Scooter. Scooter has been struggling with ill-health and the vet isn’t sure what her problem is, but Zoe and Rocky have taken over the house and literally barrel into anything in their path head-first.

There was also the pitter patter of little feet as ‘the twins’ reluctantly appeared for lunch. The two timid swamp wallabies had a quick bottle and returned to their ‘pouches’.

The wallabies are the most adventurous of the lot, and bedroom doors need to be kept closed so they don’t used the beds as a trampoline.

Once they’re ‘‘off the bottle’’ the wombats, kangaroos and wallabies are taken to one of several properties where other volunteers ‘dehumanise’ them and eventually set them free into nearby native forests.

Apart from occasional government grants, the Steegstras pay for everything themselves with a little help from local vets in treating the sick animals.

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