Phoebe the Swamp Wallaby weighed less than a kilogram when she was left on the roadside at Galston Gorge after her mother was hit and killed by a vehicle last October.
Sydney Wildlife volunteer carer Jane Sleap received the call for a joey sitting beside its dead mother on the road, but despite her best efforts she couldn’t locate it in the peak hour traffic. In desperation, she phoned the local vets and was relieved to learn that a good samaritan had taken little Phoebe to a nearby clinic at Asquith where she was subsequently released into Jane’s care.
Fast forward six months and Jane is now preparing Phoebe for a soft release from her five-acre property in Galston adjoining Still Creek and the Berowra Valley National Park.
Caring for animals is in Jane’s DNA, so it comes as no surprise she’s dedicated the last 10 years as a volunteer for Sydney Wildlife.
“Animals were always following me or finding me,” Jane said.
“I had a black Labrador named Walter who started bringing home animals or when we were out, he would just lie down next to an injured bird or animal or pick it up and bring it to me. Possums, mice, birds, all sorts of things, but never hurting them, always bringing them to me,” she said.
That was the hint Jane needed to complete a two-day basic training course with Sydney Wildlife. Whilst her faithful retriever dog Walter is no longer with her, she’s been caring for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife ever since.
Jane’s move with husband John from suburban Turramurra to acreage at Galston was quite deliberate in order to expand her operation. She completed specialised courses with Sydney Wildlife and found her passion in Macropods – giving numerous Wallabies and Kangaroos from Sydney’s northwest a second chance at life.
“Galston George, Cattai Ridge, Glenorie, Crosslands and Fiddletown roads are known black spots where drivers need to slow down and be on the lookout for wildlife particularly at dawn and dusk,” Jane said.
“Accidents happen, but please be respectful if you hit an animal,” she said.
“Stop and call us at Sydney Wildlife on 9413 4300. You’re not going to be in trouble. Just do the right thing.”
If people feel capable and are not in danger, Jane encourages them to take wildlife to their local vet – it’s a free service.
“But a frightened animal is a frightened animal and they may bite or scratch or kick,” Jane said.
And a small percentage of bats could carry disease and some snakes are venomous, so leave those to the professionals,” she said.
Over the past decade Jane’s made strong friendships with like-minded people in the organisation which is completely funded by donations and fundraising efforts.
While Jane concedes caring for a mob of six ‘roos all at once was an absolute nightmare, she believes there is a role for everyone at Sydney Wildlife – from collecting and dropping off greenery for carers, to transporting animals, working the 24/7 rescue and advice phone line or fundraising.
“You can do as much as you like or little as you like – there’s no pressure,” Jane said.
“I know a lovely couple in their eighties who just do birds. Others just do possums. You find your niche,” she said.
That said, having a broken night’s sleep feeding furless marsupials known as ‘pinkies’ every 3 to 4 hours, or being woken by a call out in the middle of the night takes a special person like Jane.
Since March, her focus has been on releasing Phoebe who now weighs about 10 kilograms. She lets Jane know when she wants outside time by communicating with a Skippy-like “tch, tch, tch” or banging on the door of her pen.
Phoebe has graduated from supervised walks around the property to spending a day outside. Now she’s staying out at night and returning home in the morning for a feed and giant nap − just like a teenager!
It will be a bitter-sweet moment for Jane when Phoebe, the adorable joey she’s raised for the last six months, hops out of the pen, across the paddock and into the bush for the last time – a space where she’ll be safe and can’t get runover like her mother.
But Jane knows she’s given her a second chance at life and while she’s confident Phoebe will ‘wild-up’ like the countless others she’s rescued, rehabilitated and released over the last ten years. She hopes that Phoebe will come back down the driveway or appear on the grass with a joey of her own sometime in the future.
For more information on Sydney Wildlife’s Rescue & Care Courses or to donate visit: http://www.sydneywildlife.org.au/
https://www.facebook.com/sydneywildlife.smws/ To contact Sydney Wildlife’s 24/7 Rescue & Advice line call: (02) 9413 4300