Thursday, 10 January 2013

Driving Miss Brushtail

Brutal summer in Australia has wildfires burning throughout the nation's southeast, unprecedented heat and, since November, a dearth of precipitation in Victoria.

Bad days for animals that already struggle to survive.

Last Friday was a scorcher in Melbourne. Animals were literally falling from bone-dry trees, keeping Wildlife Victoria volunteers like myself hopping. The female brushtail possum pictured here was found laying on her back beneath a tree a block from busy Fitzroy Street in St Kilda by a woman named Annette. The brushtail, with a joey in her pouch, was dehydrated, disoriented, and close to death. She was given fluids for 2 days at St Kilda Vet Clinic and deemed healthy enough for release. I picked her up Monday near dusk and drove her back to Annette's residence. She greeted me outside and directed me to the spot where she'd found the brushtail. It should go without saying that wild animals desire release. But when I opened the brushtail's box, expecting her to scamper up the tree, she nonchalantly laid on her back with a look on her face like a stunned mullet. (See above.)

By this time the St Kilda vet was closed, so I brought her to a local 24/7 animal clinic called Malvern East Pet Emergency (MEPE). A vet agreed that her behaviour was odd and took her into care. I was called yesterday (Wednesday) to retrieve her and deliver her to a carer named Kerri in Montmorency, one of Melbourne's greener northern suburbs, about 45 minutes from MEPE. I buckled her box into the backseat for the second time in 2 days and drove her to yet another temporary home, this one outdoors in a tall pen with branches and plenty of food. After a few days of observation she'll be released even further north than Montmorency, where she and her joey will hopefully establish a new home and live long, healthy lives.

Or, maybe I'll be driving her to yet another destination like a pale Morgan Freeman ....

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