Carer’s an­i­mal king­dom

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Kenji Sato

Kan­ga­roos in the kitchen, birds in the bath­room and din­goes in the drive­way are an ev­ery­day sight for Dutch Thun­der Wildlife Shel­ter owner Kylee Donkers.

For the past six years Mrs Donkers’ home has been packed to the rafters with injured an­i­mals need­ing around-the-clock feed­ing and care. ‘‘Sleep? Who needs sleep?’’ she said. Com­ing into the warmer months Mrs Donkers ex­pects to see even more an­i­mals de­liv­ered to her front door.

She is warn­ing lo­cals not to pick up fledg­ling birds, which are of­ten mis­taken for aban­doned chicks and ‘‘kid­napped’’ by well-mean­ing lo­cals.

Dur­ing spring fledg­ling birds leave the nest and crash-land to the ground, where they spend sev­eral weeks walk­ing around learn­ing hunt­ing and for­ag­ing skills from their par­ents.

‘‘It’s part of their learn­ing and grow­ing process and their mum and dad will look af­ter them,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

‘‘We get lots of baby birds kid­napped be­cause peo­ple bring them to us think­ing they need help.

‘‘That’s why we’re try­ing to get the word out and tell peo­ple to give us a call and we’ll as­sess whether the an­i­mal needs help.’’

Mrs Donkers has started a wildlife aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram to teach school­child­ren and com­mu­nity groups about lo­cal wildlife.

‘‘We have a lot of en­dan­gered and threat­ened species around the area, which peo­ple don’t know about,’’ she said.

The re­gion is home to a rare ecosys­tem of squir­rel glid­ers, broad-shelled tur­tles, king­fish­ers, tawny frog­mouths and dol­lar birds.

‘‘Peo­ple don’t know how to pro­tect them and help them be­cause they don’t know they ex­ist in the area,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

The re­sponse to the pro­gram has been en­thu­si­as­tic ac­cord­ing to Mrs Donkers, who has man­aged to re­cruit a team of nearly 20 volunteers.

‘‘They’re a huge help. It means I can spend more time feed­ing and treat­ing the an­i­mals,’’ she said.

Her feed­ing rou­tine in­volves go­ing into the bush to gather gum leaves for the koalas, grass for the joeys and bot­tle­brush for the pos­sums.

Dur­ing the day she feeds the baby birds ev­ery 30 min­utes and her hus­band holds the house record for bot­tle-feed­ing nine kan­ga­roos at once.

On top of her hec­tic feed­ing sched­ule, Mrs Donkers goes jog­ging with her two din­goes, at­tends wildlife con­fer­ences and is on call 24 hours a day.

‘‘Our par­ents couldn’t un­der­stand why we would spend all of our time and money look­ing af­ter the an­i­mals,’’ she said.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple can’t un­der­stand, but we love what we do and we feel priv­i­leged to be able to do it.’’

If you find an injured an­i­mal or are in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing at the shel­ter, phone Kylee Donkers on 0417 560 910.

Feed­ing time: Kylee feeds kan­ga­roos si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Carer: Kylee Donkers cares for a near-blind baby koala.

Bush roy­alty: king­fisher. Kylee nurses an injured

Mak­ing friends: friend. Kylee and her new lamb

Safe: Baby kan­ga­roos keep warm in their pouches.

Mak­ing them­selves at home: Kan­ga­roos in the kitchen.

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