Byron Bay vet visits FAWNA to see viability of a mobile wildlife hospital in South West

Visit: Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital's Dr Stephen Van Mil visited FAWNAs rescue caravan clinic in Capel. Picture: Supplied.

Visit: Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital's Dr Stephen Van Mil visited FAWNAs rescue caravan clinic in Capel. Picture: Supplied.

The man who had the vision for Byron Bay's mobile wildlife hospital says there is a great need and opportunity for one in the South West of WA.

Dr Stephen Van Mil visited the region in early April to check the viability of a mobile wildlife hospital.

Fostering and Assistance for Wildlife Needing Aid president Suzi Strapp also showed him the site for its proposed "bricks and mortar" wildlife hospital and eco tourism sanctuary in Capel.

"I'm keen on the sanctuary idea because it is a significant tourism destination and can support what they do with the hospital," Dr Van Mil said.

He said it was important to create a constant income stream to ensure the operating costs were covered once established.

"It is always challenging [to fundraise] but once you get momentum that helps and it's easier to raise money to create things than to operate it because people can see where their money goes," he said.

He said he believed the sanctuary in Capel could help fund the mobile hospital and was also keen to see a permanent one on the site.

"It is possible to have both," he said.

"The Capel one will take time, but with the momentum the sanctuary creates, you can get a lot out about the fundraising for a mobile hospital and that can become a flagship."

The Byron Bay mobile hospital, called Matilda cost more than $1million to establish and costs $1.2million per year to operate.

Dr Van Mil said like most general purpose vets in Australia, he was time poor and not compensated for treating wildlife.

"In my years of practise I kept feeling bad about it and thinking this isn't good enough for wildlife," he said.

"The idea of the mobile thing came about because it was quick to build, didn't need development applications and it contained costs."

While the design was there ready, it was unfortunate that it couldn't get built in time for the Black Summer fires.

He said the fires "gave them a kick up the butt" to move on the project and while COVID-19 slowed them down again, they were able to get it up and running in 2021.

Now Wildlife Recovery Australia is working towards establishing mobile wildlife hospitals in other regions across the country.

Dr Van Mil was recently in north Queensland and after being in WA said he wanted to see two mobile hospitals in the state.

He said he hoped to bring all the wildlife rehabilitation groups in WA together for a symposium so they could collectively work together and move forward.

"If you focus on wildlife as the outcome then the rest doesn't matter so much," he said.