Living in Everton Park, wildlife is not something I think very much about except when reminded of it by the occasional possum sighting or the crows that live in a tree outside my bedroom window.
During a recent visit to McDowall local Mike Fowler’s home, I learned that there is actually quite a lot of wildlife living around us and doing its best to keep to itself. Unfortunately for the animals, however, they usually come off second best after coming into accidental contact with the modern world including domestic pets and motorcars.
Mike Fowler and a local python
Mike is one of a number of people in the Village Buzz area who spend time rescuing injured native animals with the aim of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild or humanely putting an end to their sufferings. He is a volunteer with Moreton Bay Koala Rescue and rescues between 30 and 40 animals every month including koalas and many other species.
I was very interested during my visit to learn a bit more about Mike's back story which involves a stint in the Australian army as a drill sergeant. He was promoted to sergeant major before leaving and taking up a post managing the attendance in the House of Representatives in Canberra (there is definitely a book in there somewhere) and later became a civilian employee with the Department of Defence.
After being retrenched he needed something to do and was tuckshop coordinator in a local school before volunteering six years ago as an animal rescuer because he has always loved animals and, in particular, Australian natives.
Unlike many other rescuers, he also cares for and rehabilitates animals once they have received the medical attention they need. He took me on a tour of his home and showed a number of cages including a koala cage built with a community grant from the Brisbane City Council. There were no koalas in residence that morning but there were a couple of shy possums recovering from injury.
Sometimes Mike and his fellow rescuers will spot an injured animal themselves but more often than not they respond to tipoffs from members of the public. He is very keen to stress that calling an animal rescue hotline is the correct thing to do when seeing an animal in distress.
They are wild and the public should not attempt to rescue them but leave the task to a professional. It can be dangerous to try and pick up an animal which is injured and already stressed, armed with sharp teeth and claws and does not want to be rescued.
When a rescuer picks up an injured animal it is usually taken to a vet, in Mike's case often McDowall Vets, to be assessed and treated or euthanased if it cannot be saved and released into the wild. Mike said he isn't comfortable having animals euthanased but that it is a far kinder option than leaving them to suffer and die alone in the wild.
Grace Fowler helping take care of the animals
Animals can be rehabilitated and released after serious injury but not if they have lost a vital limb. Ringtailed possums, for example, cannot survive in the wild without their tails to hold onto things and a koala with a missing front leg can't survive but can do perfectly well minus one back leg.
Animals on the road to rehabilitation are housed in the various cages at Mike's home where they are cared for and fed until the day that they can be released which, he says, is the real highlight of the job. He was recently able to release two koalas back into the wild in one day which was incredibly satisfying.
There are strict rules about where animals can be released and with koalas it has to be within a square kilometre of where they were originally found. There is more leeway for other species but care has to be taken when releasing an animal to ensure that it is not released in a location that would cause conflict with an already-resident dominant animal.
Mike is very concerned about how built-up areas keep encroaching on wildlife habitats and believes this should be minimised as far as possible. He also has a firm believer that city dwellers should restrain their pets and prevent them from either hunting or scaring native animals.