Sunday Mail

Elke’s only wish was wel­fare of beloved an­i­mals

Camels and es­capee emu in a per­plex­ing case for pub­lic trustee


IT was one of the most un­usual last- wish lists the Pub­lic Trustee had ever come across.

Elke Wieszniews­ki, 65, led an ex­tra­or­di­nary and com­plex life, but it was fol­low­ing her tragic death – tan­gled in a camel har­ness – that mat­ters re­ally be­came com­pli­cated.

Most of­ten it is the peo­ple left be­hind who cause the most trou­ble, wran­gling over wealth and pos­ses­sions, even tak­ing their griev­ances to court.

But when Elke passed away in Jan­uary, of­fi­cials found her only con­cern was the wel­fare of her much- loved an­i­mals – for she ded­i­cated her life to help­ing all crea­tures great and small.

So it was left to the Pub­lic Trustee, a State Gov­ern­ment agency which ad­min­is­ters about 1500 new and re­vised wills an­nu­ally, to sort out Ms Wieszniews­ki’s wishes.

She was a fully com­pe­tent, very well off cameleer and ve­teri­nar­ian who mi­grated from Aus­tria to South Aus­tralia 10 years ago to es­cape her then cir­cum­stances at home.

She lived at a well- ap­pointed an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary at Point Pass, about 11km north of Eudunda, in the Mid North.

In ad­di­tion to her three camels, she cared for two dogs, a cat, chick­ens, two adult emus and other res­cued wildlife.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters was that Ms Wieszniews­ki was not in con­tact with any next of kin in Aus­tria.

She was, how­ever, friendly with a Cairns an­i­mal shel­ter to which she left every­thing; there was no­body to help or­gan­ise her an­i­mals or prop­erty.

“The de­ceased was a re­spected vet­eri­nary sur­geon in Aus­tria and a true an­i­mal lover,’’ Nicolle Ran­ta­nen, the cur­rent Pub­lic Trustee, said.

“Her prop­erty is equipped with high- end camel fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a brand- new un­der­cover dres­sage arena.

“The prop­erty also in­cluded a con­sult/ op­er­at­ing room, where the de­ceased cared for in­jured wildlife, par­tic­u­larly Aus­tralian birds. There was a large aviary an­nexed to a con­sult­ing room where she mon­i­tored birds in prepa­ra­tion for re­lease back to the wild.”

Trag­i­cally, Ms Wieszniews­ki died while car­ing for the an­i­mals she loved so much.

In late Jan­uary, she was found tan­gled in the har­ness of one of the camels within the dres­sage arena.

It’s thought she was trapped for some days be­fore be­ing dis­cov­ered by her neigh­bour.

“Due to the na­ture of her death, and the lack of any next of kin, the Pub­lic Trustee of­fice had to act quickly and dili­gently to se­cure her as­sets, con­firm the wel­fare of the an­i­mals, and ar­range her fu­neral as per her wishes,” Ms Ran­ta­nen said.

“We at­tended her prop­erty only a week af­ter her death to sur­vey the prop­erty, search for im­por­tant doc­u­men­ta­tion, check on the an­i­mals and col­lect any valu­ables like cash,

Some of Elke Wieszniews­ki’s camels.

and jew­ellery.” That was the easy part, Ms Ran­ta­nen said.

But the de­ceased’s will pro­vided clear in­struc­tions that the an­i­mals were to be gifted to an an­i­mal shel­ter in Cairns, a 30- hour, 2600km drive away.

“We made im­me­di­ate con­tact with the char­ity and be­gan dis­cussing the wel­fare of the an­i­mals but, un­for­tu­nately, the char­ity was un­able to take the dogs, cat and chick­ens,” Ms Ran­ta­nen said.

“We there­fore li­aised with Elke’s neigh­bour, who agreed to adopt the chick­ens, and they were able to iden­tify some friends of the de­ceased who were will­ing to re­home the dogs and the cat.

“This left us with the big an­i­mals – the camels and emus.”

What fol­lowed was a crosscoun­try odyssey of an­i­mal wran­gling, es­capes and re­hom­ing that only now has been set­tled.

One of the emus had “sec­ond thoughts about the trip” and promptly es­caped.

“Af­ter the es­cape, the char­ity thought it un­fair to trans­port a sin­gle emu all the way to Cairns,’’ Ms Ran­ta­nen said.

“We ar­ranged the emu to be per­ma­nently re­homed at Wild­wood Park Sanc­tu­ary An­i­mal Res­cue and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, east of Ta­nunda.

“This fa­cil­ity has a pur­pose­built emu en­clo­sure with high fences, fox pro­tec­tion and a small mob of ado­les­cent emus who would in­te­grate well with the ad­di­tional emu.”

But af­ter sev­eral weeks on the run, the miss­ing emu was re­cap­tured and re­united with his part­ner.

Both have been re­homed at Wild­wood.

Cairns’ trop­i­cal cli­mate then posed the next prob­lem.

“We had con­tact from the neigh­bour, friends of Elke and camel ex­perts fa­mil­iar with the de­ceased’s par­tic­u­lar cam

The late Elke Wieszniews­ki, whose will pre­sented sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges. Pic­tures: Pub­lic

Trustee els,” Ms Ran­ta­nen said. “They all raised se­ri­ous con­cern about the camels be­ing trans­ported to Queens­land, as camels are not suited to the trop­ics. Camels are par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to trop­i­cal par­a­sites and foot rot due to the hu­mid and wet con­di­tions.

“These con­cerns were shared with the char­ity, who even­tu­ally re­nounced their in­ter­est in the camels.

“We were able to re­home the camels at Beltana Sta­tion in the Far North, where they have been hap­pily in­te­grated with a large train of camels and are cared for by Camel Treks Aus­tralia.

“The sta­tion is over 1500sq km and is the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for dromedary camels.”

And Ms Wieszniews­ki’s fi­nal wish was made pos­si­ble by the Pub­lic Trustee, which gained coun­cil ap­proval for her to be buried on the prop­erty she shared with her an­i­mals.

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