Wildlife vol­un­teers

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

KA­TRINE Bruhn-Petersen, from Copen­hagen, dis­cov­ered the Wildlife Habi­tat’s vol­un­teer pro­gram when she was on the in­ter­net at home look­ing for suit­able places over­seas where she could spend her gap year.

Amid the sug­gested of­fer­ings that came from Cen­tral Amer­ica, Africa and so on the 21-year-old saw the Wildlife Habi­tat’s de­tails and made up her mind to ap­ply.

Now she’s spend­ing four weeks at the pop­u­lar Port Dou­glas wildlife park, work­ing with wildlife keep­ers and see­ing Aus­tralia’s unique an­i­mals up close. ‘‘I re­ally like it,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s a beau­ti­ful place and I re­ally like Port Dou­glas.’’

She finds kan­ga­roos pretty easy to work with - ‘‘they’re calm and not dan­ger­ous’’ - but is steer­ing well clear of the male stork who’s pretty s t r o p p y about any­one ap­proach­ing his new clutch of chicks.

Ms Bruhn-Petersen is one of about 80 vol­un­teers who an­nu­ally spend four to eight weeks work­ing at the Wildlife Habi­tat. Ac­cord­ing to the Habi­tat’s as­sis­tant man­ager Clare An­der­son, ‘‘The pro­gram is a fan­tas­tic ad­di­tion to the lo­cal com­mu­nity in terms of year­round busi­ness for ac­com­mo­da­tion lo­ca­tion, coach trans­fers, and lo­cal tour op­er­a­tors. There have been many that love Port Dou­glas so much they go on to stay a lit­tle longer and some even ob­tain work in Port Dou­glas. We have had nu­mer­ous re­turn vol­un­teers over the years, and some have gone on to work within the Wildlife Habi­tat.’’

A typ­i­cal day for the vol­un­teers is a pick up from their ac­com­mo­da­tion at 7.30 am and then an in­ter­est­ing day work­ing with the an­i­mals be­fore re­turn­ing home around mid-af­ter­noon.

Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties grow as they tasks be­come more fa­mil­iar, but some crit­ters are for­ever out of bounds - bad luck if you’re keen to work with croc­o­diles and cas­sowaries.

‘‘We’ve had some fan­tas­tic vol­un­teers,’’ says Ms An­der­son. ‘‘The staff of­ten get as much out of it as the vol­un­teers do.’’

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

VOL­UN­TEERS: Linda Erkens, Eslie Bos and Ka­trine Bruhn-Petersen

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