South West wildlife rehabilitation group FAWNA wants to see a mobile hospital in region

FAWNA: Wildlife rehabilitator Suzi Strapp said the South West needed a wildlife hospital. Picture: Sophie Elliott.
FAWNA: Wildlife rehabilitator Suzi Strapp said the South West needed a wildlife hospital. Picture: Sophie Elliott.

As another "horrendous" summer for wildlife and their rehabilitators draws to a close, hopes for a regional wildlife hospital are no closer to fruition.

So as a "stop gap" FAWNA has begun collaborating with Wildlife Recovery Australia who helped establish a mobile wildlife hospital in Byron Bay in 2021.

Ms Strapp said it was an exciting prospect as it would mean the region would get "silver standard" wildlife care while they wait for the "gold standard" of the bricks and mortar type to be built.

The thought of going through another summer without this specialised help was distressing, Ms Strapp said.

"If the hospital takes three years, we won't survive," she said.

In January 2021, rehabilitation organisation FAWNA released its proposal to establish a South West regional wildlife hospital and eco tourism park in Capel.

The proposed Kaatijinup Biodiversity Park would be a not-for-profit, social enterprise operating as a wildlife hospital, research and training centre. The park would include a nature-based wildlife experience, campground, luxury eco-camp, and passive recreation facility on 319 hectares of rehabilitated woodland, wetland, grassland, bush and open plains.

FAWNA president Suzi Strapp told the Mail the business case was done and sitting with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

She said due to land tenure problems progress on the project was at a stand still.

A department spokesperson said its staff were aware of FAWNA wanting to establish a wildlife hospital in the South West.

"DBCA has encouraged FAWNA to consider how this could be funded and sustained," the spokesperson said.

"DBCA does not generally provide financial assistance to rehabilitators or veterinarians who treat wildlife.

"DBCA regularly provides advice and support to wildlife rehabilitators who apply for various grants through organisations such as Lotterywest."

Ms Strapp said a regional wildlife hospital was more important than ever after being inundated with calls for help over the summer.

"We have not stopped since October and a lot of the issues we were facing were for the first time because we hadn't seen this kind of heat for so long," she said.

"Some days we had more than 35 calls to help wildlife and a lot of that happened over the public holidays."

Because there was no dedicated wildlife hospital, animals were taken to normal vet clinics for treatment, she said.

Bunbury Veterinary Clinic's Dr Braden Collins said the clinic treated about one to five wild animals per week.

"They can be anything from animals hit by cars through to juvenile animals too young to be without their parents and turtles with cracked shells," he said.

"We cover all costs of treating these animals as they are presented to us. Decisions about their treatment is always made on the basis of what is best for the animal and the species and are never made on a financial basis at our clinic - we accept that caring for our wildlife is part of our responsibility as a clinic."

Dr Collins said a wildlife hospital would help the region but funding would always be a challenge.

"Having a vet with more training in wildlife medicine and rehabilitation would be a real bonus, as some of our wildlife is quite unlike any other animal we work on and have quite specialised needs," he said.