Support for wildlife
Managing a lifesaving wildlife shelter can be very challenging but for Loretta and Móeesha Saunders, they aren’t complaining.
“I have been doing this for 15 years now, from when Mo was just two and it is the most rewarding thing,” owner of Moah’s Ark Wildlife Shelter Loretta said.
“I was a police officer for 30 years before that and worked closely with wildlife officers and the RSPCA.
“Mum brought me up to be animal welfare orientated, so I suppose the passion was there.”
All of the animals Moah’s Ark takes in are Australian natives but Loretta will assist any animal that’s injured, orphaned or displaced.
“Birds of prey, chicks and kangaroo joeys are what we receive the most but we take in reptiles too,” Loretta said.
“Birds, baby possums and gliders have been very popular at the moment.
“Normally we get a bit of a reprieve between seasons, but we have been flat out for 12 months.
“Spring and summer are usually the busiest time but because of the drought and the fact we didn’t really have a winter it’s just been a continual year for all animals.
“The end of last year we had overbreeding and some of the birds were still going in summer; it’s the climate, everything’s just changed and there’s not enough food anywhere.
“Just to find green grass I am travelling 30kms a day, just to feed the kangaroos and the wattle for the possums only lasted three days.”
Moah’s Ark was one of four shelter operators in the Moira Shire who were awarded funding recently under the Labor Government’s Wildlife Rehabilitator Grants.
The government is ensuring injured wildlife in the Moira Shire get the help they need, with a new online help tool and almost $170,000 in funding for rehabilitators.
Member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp at the time announced Moah’s Ark would receive $2000.
“We apply each year for a little grant and this year received $2000 from the Wildlife Rehabilitator Grants,” Loretta said.
From that $2000, $1000 will be used to purchase consumables such as medications and the second $1000 will go towards structures including rescue equipment.
“Just to get one kangaroo joey through from when it is brought to us to when its released costs $1500, for formula and colostrum,” Loretta said.
“This grant has been a real help to us. “Upkeep is a big thing, we need new fly wire for the birds, some fans to be able to cool the bird ‘enclosure’ down and whirly birds to suck the hot air up because it gets so hot in there during summer – this is what the money goes towards.
“Even though we don’t get paid this is the best thing I have ever done.
“What we get back in reward is just not in comparison.
“It isn’t about us, it’s purely about these most precious native animals who probably belong here more than us humans.
“In 30 years a lot of these will be extinct so if we don’t start looking after these vulnerable species we will no longer have them.”
The motto at Moah’s Ark is to ‘rescue, rehab, release’ and getting them back to mother nature.
“When people see a bird on the ground they think oh its injured and pick it up to bring to us, but a majority of the time mum is watching from the tree, she will kick them out of the nest when they’re beginning to fledge so they can learn to eat,” Loretta said.
“If you keep things as natural as you can and try to assimilate what it is like out there, then you have a much better chance of pulling that animal through.
“When we receive an injured bird, we buy something that is suitable and is like a make shift nest, when they are ready to be released we’ll keep them in that nest, put it up in the tree and mum will take it back.
“We always release as close as practical where it came from because animals are territorial and with birds especially if you can get them back to mum within a six-week period she will take them back straight away.”
Loretta and her small team at Moah’s Ark don’t go out and seek donations, as Loretta said they are a team of volunteers who made the decision to take on this job.
All the donations they do receive however go towards feeding and medicating the animals.
“People are generous,” Loretta said.
“We don’t seek it but it’s wonderful that people have that compassion and understand what we are trying to do.
“We’ve started up another Facebook page for education – teaching the public to recognise when a bird needs help because a lot of the time chicks that get brought to us should have stayed with mum.
“We so appreciate when the community is concerned for the wildlife but sometimes they are ok and end up being taken away from mum which can be more harmful.
“Our Facebook now has charts to show when an animal is in need of our help and when it is just learning, and we have also started a newsletter online, on animal education – keeping yourself safe and keeping the animal safe.”
For Loretta and Móeesha not a day goes by where they are twiddling their thumbs with Loretta not having a day off in two and a half years.
“We might call for a few more carers in the area soon because of how busy we are,” Loretta said.
“We currently have myself and Mo working here, and we also have three foster carers who take on our little ones after their initial care as I do all the immediate work then pass on to a carer to get it back to health.
“I’m also going to have a training day soon because I’m needing more rescue transporters, I’m finding that it’s taking so much of the day to do the rescue then to get it home whilst also looking after the animals that we already have here.
“The training will be on how to safely rescue and collect an injured smaller animal but for the people to keep safe as well.”
Loretta said the job is constant and testing but there is no place herself or Móeesha would rather be.
“There is not a day where we don’t have an animal to rescue,” Loretta said.
“It’s been a real struggle for the animals this year, a real struggle.
“There is never a dull day, never a dull moment.
“But we love what we do and we love caring for these animals.”
If you find an animal that is injured or needs rescuing especially during the day, please contact Loretta ASAP on 0417 288 944.
Móeesha Saunders of Moah’s Ark with some of the many Australian wildlife the shelter takes care of.