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Busselton wildlife carer opens up about the sacrifice to help animals

Carers Tiani Schultz and Georgia Payne take care of sick and injured wildlife from their own homes. Pictures: Supplied.
Carers Tiani Schultz and Georgia Payne take care of sick and injured wildlife from their own homes. Pictures: Supplied.

"Hi, we found a really sick bird with growths all over it's face. Is there anything you can do to help?"

Through the phone, Tiani's voice responded with instant familiarity.

"Sound's like pigeon pox. Bring it in if you can, I'll see what I can do."

Finding a sick pigeon was an unexpected part of a trip to the beach for some friends and I, but for Tiani Schultz, it's just another day taking care of local wildlife.

Operating out of her own home, Tiani is one of hundreds of registered wildlife carers across the state, who volunteer their own time and money to rehabilitate injured and sick native animals.

Tiani and eight other carers make up Dunsborough & Busselton Wildlife Care, a collective of volunteers who work together to accommodate the animals that are brought in.

Like most volunteer carers in WA, the group is made up of regular people who share a passion for helping wildlife, with many of them still working full-time jobs.

Sasha Boundy with a joey she cares for as a wildlife care volunteer. Picture: Supplied.

Sasha Boundy with a joey she cares for as a wildlife care volunteer. Picture: Supplied.

The group delegates the animals between the members according to what they can fit into their lifestyle and homes.

"Some carers will only do tiny possums that are young and don't need a lot of space, other carers will do carnivorous birds like owls that need a big aviary," she said.

With some animals like baby possums and birds needing feeding as often as every 20 minutes, cages to clean, and many animals needing treatment, volunteer wildlife carers spend a great amount of time looking after their animals.

Tiani said the group makes sure they take care of each other as well.

"A lot of carers can end up overloaded. It's called carer fatigue," she said.

"Because we deal with a lot of animals, we deal with a lot of death and injuries. It can wear on your mental health a little bit.

"So in our group, we make sure all of our carers are getting the help they need, so they can best care for the animal."

Right now, Tiani has nine ringtail possums in her care, but she said many more possums needed help during the heatwaves over Christmas.

"We were absolutely flooded. We had 20 odd possums each, with dehydration, heatstroke, burnt paws," she said.

"We had possums falling out of trees, with dehydration, heatstroke, burnt paws from walking on hot roads and rooves."

In December, a heatwave saw the South West nearing 40 degrees, and Perth experienced it's hottest summer on record. Tiani said increasing extreme weather events were taking a toll on wildlife.

"We haven't had such big heatwaves in a while. We didn't expect to have so many animals so quickly," she said.

"Ten years ago when I started caring, we wouldn't get many heat waves. Now there's quite a few, summer's stretched out a while, with lower rainfall. It impacts the animals in the long run."

"Waterways are drying up, so turtles are having to cross roads where they normally wouldn't."

Tiani said there was limited government funding for wildlife carers across Australia so many of them rely on their own pockets, occasional grants and public donations to continue their work.

Despite the time, effort and fatigue, Tiani said being able to rehabilitate animals made it all worth it.

"It's a good feeling that you helped something that without our help would have died. Especially with ringtails being critically endangered, it's a good feeling that we may have helped the species go on just a little bit longer."