Tonka the wombat. Thriving in care!

Tonka is thriving in care! He continues to gain weight and his is becoming more confident every day. He now weighs nearly three kilos! He drinks four bottle a day and no longer requires a feed in the middle of the night!

Getting up isn’t easy!

Tonka still lives in a pouch. If Tonka was living in the wild he would still be living in his mum’s pouch and venturing out to play around her while she rested in the burrow. Tonka’s confidence is growing and he regularly comes out of the pouch to play!


Playtime is vital for development! Not only does it help Tonka develop strength but teaches him how to defend himself in the wild. Head butting, biting and ‘donkey kicks’ are all survival techniques he practices with me! Ouch!

I also take Tonka outside each day. Although wombats are nocturnal, fresh air and sunshine are good for his growth and he experiences a range of sounds and smells!

Slowly Tonka’s confidence to venture out of the pouch grows!

Tonka also loves the tyre swing!

The rocking motion of the swing must feel similar to mum’s movement because it often makes Tonka fall asleep!

Stay tuned for more Tonka news! 🐾🐾

You can follow me on Instagram wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

All images are copyrighted – please share a link to my blog but do not forward, save or repost images and videos elsewhere.

If you find any injured wildlife, please contact your local wildlife group. It’s against the law to keep any wildlife for longer than 48 hours in the ACT unless you are a licensed wildlife carer. Even 48 hours is too long – a joey kept for the sake of getting cuddles and photographs will quickly become stressed and die without the proper care. 🐾🐾

Tonka the movie star!

Naturally like all the other wombats in my care (see my previous posts) Tonka had to have his own movie!

But like all divas, Tonka gets ready for action at his own pace! You can’t hurry an actor!

Too tired!
Slow motion yawn!

Tonka’s movie.

Movie mad using Imovie.

Stay tuned for more Tonka news!

You can follow me on Instagram wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

If you find any injured wildlife, please contact your local wildlife group. It’s against the law to keep any wildlife for longer than 48 hours in the ACT unless you are a licensed wildlife carer. Even 48 hours is too long – a joey kept for the sake of getting cuddles and photographs will quickly become stressed and die without the proper care. Please call you local wildlife group.

Australian Snakes! The Red Belly Black snake and the Eastern Brown snake.

My love of snakes started when I was employed at the wildlife clinic. A Red Belly Black snake was brought into the clinic with its head stuck in a soda can. The can was gently removed from the snake and then we let the snake slither away. The movement of a snake can be mesmerizing to watch!

Red Belly Black snakes and Eastern Brown snakes live along the east coast of Australia. Canberra is known as the Bush Capital so Eastern Browns are very common. I live across the road from open grasslands so I often see Eastern Brown snakes when I go for walks around the grasslands. Wearing long trousers and thick shoes or boots is a must when walking in these types of areas! My family has seen an Eastern Brown in our garden. I don’t think the snake took up permanent residence because I’ve never seen it – despite the hours I spend sitting outside hoping to spot it!

The Eastern Brown snake is lightening fast and can grow up to two meters in length. They are the second most venomous snake in the world! Eastern Browns are very active in the springtime. Many people like to talk about the ‘aggressiveness’ of the Eastern Brown snake. When an Eastern Brown is threatened their defensive move is often mistaken for aggression. Most of the time we don’t even know snakes are around – they are much more fearful of us! An Eastern Brown snake will most likely remove itself as soon as it hears you coming or slither away when surprised.

Red Belly Black snakes in our area grow to around 1.3 – 1.5 meters in length and are generally fatter in appearance than the Eastern Brown. Although generally placid and with venom less toxic than the Eastern Brown snake, Red Belly Blacks are still considered dangerously venomous. Any snake bite should be treated as an emergency! Red Belly Black snakes are colored as described – black with a red belly! They are more likely to freeze if approached which results in people getting too close to them – the Red Belly Black will then attack when they feel threatened. Red Belly Black snakes can also swim! Ok, I admit that’s a scary thought – swimming along and seeing a Red Belly Black snake! Red Belly Black snakes give birth to live young!

I recently had the pleasure of observing our local snake catcher in action – like working with Superman but while he catches snakes! He carefully caught and relocated a beautiful Eastern Brown snake from a public tennis court. His skill and love for these amazing creatures is evident in the way he speaks to and handles these animals. The nervousness I felt being this close to a snake is clearly evident in my voice! I respect snakes enough to keep my distance and observe them from afar while the experts do what they do best! I was standing on a big tree stump during this entire adventure!

This is a job for the experts!!
And she’s gone – disappears into the bush – perfect camouflage!

If you are concerned about a snake on your property, remember they play an important role in our ecosystem – they keep pests under control! They are less likely to take up permanent residence if you keep your lawns short and your garden free of rubbish and wood. If you encounter a snake in your garden take your pets and children inside and the snake will probably move on. If you are really concerned, or the snake is in your house or garage have someone keep an eye on where the snake is located and call your local, licensed snake handler.

Remember, most snake bites occur because people are trying to catch, relocate or hurt snakes – so if you don’t want to get bitten, leave snakes alone! Please do not chase them or frighten them – just let them be. It is illegal to harm a snake!

My thanks to Gavin for giving his permission to use his images. Snake images as well as the above image are copyrighted to Gavin Smith. Videos are copyrighted to me. Please share a link to my blog but do not share or post images elsewhere.

You can follow me on Instagram – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Gavin – our Canberra snake expert can be located on Instagram – act_snake_removals.

Tonka – the joey wombat!

Tonka arrived in care at four months of age, weighing just over 800 grams after his mum was hit by a car. Luckily he didn’t suffer any injuries himself.

Tonka is fed a specialised milk formula five times a day. Tonka took quickly to his bottle and devours every feed!

Bottle time!
Still sucking even when the bottle is finished!

I am sharing care of Tonka with another carer. Although we generally limit passing animals in care around, sharing care of a joey takes into account our other commitments. Our shared care is almost identical – same bedding, same set up, same equipment and we both have quiet homes with no other pets or children. It’s vital to Tonka’s development that routines are the similar to reduce any stress.

Tonka is old enough not to require an addition heat source such as a humidicrib. He sleeps in a pouch in a portacot. He’s very used to the routine and is often found sitting on top of his pouch ready for his bottle.

Cuddle time!

Tonka is thriving! We monitor each animal’s growth and development and we try to replicate what happens in the wild. At this stage Tonka spends most of his time in his pouch – but he’s starting to venture out. His confidence is growing, he’s healthy and happy and gaining weight!

Remember, in the ACT it’s against the law to keep any wildlife for longer than 24 hours unless you are a licensed wildlife carer. Other states have their own laws, please check in your local area. If you find injured wildlife, please do not try to raise it yourself, they need specialised care and treatment. ❤️

Stay tuned for more Tonka news! You can follow me on Instagram wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

All images are copyrighted. Please share a link to my blog but do not use images or post elsewhere.

A Puggle – a baby echidna

Australia has the only two monotremes in the world. A monotreme is a mammal that lays an egg. The two types of monotremes are the echidna and the platypus. I’ve never had a platypus in care – but I have had a few echidnas, see my earlier posts. The baby echidna is called a puggle. A puggle this size would never been seen. It was found wandering because we presume it’s burrow washed out with the rain because normally it would just stay there waiting for mum to return. It was such a privilege meeting this one!

Once pregnant, the female echidna moves the egg into a temporary pouch that she creates using the folds of her skin on her belly. When the soft shelled, leathery egg hatches – out pops a furless, spineless, naked, fetus puggle! The puggle remains in the folds of the mum’s skin (pouch) lapping milk from 2 milk patches – echidnas have no teats. Once the puggle’s spines start to develop, around 7 weeks of age, the mother creates a nursery burrow and leaves the baby there! Who wants to carry around a spikey kid nestled in the folds of your belly?! Ouch! This is the reason we rarely see puggles! The baby is left alone in the nursery for days at a time – while mum is out and about and she only returns to feed her young about once a week! This is why, if you ever see an echidna near a road or around your garden – please leave it alone! Move (chase) the echidna off the road, in the direction it is traveling, but never remove them from their area. There maybe a burrow somewhere with a puggle that the mum will eventually return to!

Since echidnas don’t have teats, puggles can’t be bottle feed in care like wombats and bats. Therefore, to feed puggles, we use specialized milk which is placed in a low container for them to lap. In the above video we are trying to establish feeding by using our hands. This specialized milk must be incredibly high in fats to enable it to only be fed once a week or so!

Puggles are eventually weaned around seven months of age. It will then remain in care, living in it’s burrow for a few more months after that. Then it will be released back into the wild. Luckily echidnas are independent and less likely to bond with any carer – so release should be easy.

Stay tuned for my next adventure…! Thanks for reading my post and for your interest in our remarkable wildlife! ❤️🐾🐾

Natalie – release. The final chapter!

After failing to release Natalie the first time, I called on a few swans to help me! Actually I called on another wildlife carer who had two swans in care. I needed some swans to show Natalie that she’s not ‘just like me’, but is rather, just like them! We always try to pair up animals of the same species so they identify with their own species rather than identifying with their carer. Pairing animals together helps them learn from each other – they learn the natural behaviors that carers can’t teach! However it depends when animals arrive into care and their stage of development and which carers has what! Since these two swans had recently come into care, I could match them with Natalie so she could learn. Natalie wasn’t too sure about these strange birds walking around her garden!

The meeting…..

Natalie looked at the ’strange creatures’ and went into hiding! Enny is a large male swan and Tenny is a smaller, possibly female swan.

Nope! Natalie wasn’t impressed with the funny looking animals in her garden!

Eventually though, curiosity took over and the distance between them reduced.

Enny approaching Natalie.

Little Tenny following Natalie.

Before too long – bonding! Although still a little distance….

Then even closer! Are Natalie’s maternal instinct taking over? Is that why she’s beginning to preen the younger Tenny?

Natalie, Tenny and Enny are now ready for release! Their own little flock! The three swans were placed in crates and taken to a large lake.

A few local Moorhens came to watch the action – as we opened the crates by the water. Then we waited… Animals are never chased out of crates – we sit and watch until they are ready. Enny raced out as soon as the crate opened. Tenny came out next and finally Natalie, who followed them into the water.

That’s how easy it should be…

Be free Natalie – with your friends. Enjoy your wild life!

❤️ Thanks for the memories. ❤️

Please do not feed wildlife – especially swans! Feeding swans (and other waterbirds) pollutes the water – their home. The food given by people is not the swan’s natural feed so it floats on the surface of the water which means that swans do not use their natural feed position (plunging their head under water) to eat. Feeding swans also makes them less vary of humans and I have seen the deliberate and horrific injuries inflicted on wildlife by some members of the public. So please, if you love our wildlife, watch them, marvel at their beauty, but please leave them to do what comes naturally to them. Thank you! xx

Natalie (the black swan) release. Part 1 !

Natalie is over four months old. At this stage of development, young swans are ready to leave their parents and go their own way. Natalie demonstrated all the necessary survival skills – seeking water if concerned (for safety), finding food and long run offs to practise her flying! The time came to release Natalie! Release is always an exciting time – a little stressful and a little sad. So many mixed emotions.

Since Natalie is so large and I needed to protect her wings, I decided that instead of placing her in a crate I would carry her securely – not something I’d attempt with a wild swan, but I knew Natalie would be less stressed with me holding her. So, in the car we went, seatbelts on and secure.

When we arrived at our release destination, it was just a short walk down to the water – a huge lake.

Releases are usually straight forward. The animal is placed on the ground, or the cage is open and the animal disappears off………without a backwards glance…..

Natalie, however, wasn’t very impressed with her new location.

Natalie did not like the cold water!

Natalie refused to swim in the water, hid between my legs then started to walk back to the car! Clearly this release wasn’t going to work so unfortunately I had to take Natalie home. Not the outcome I had anticipated! I decided that I needed the help of other swans, so I will locate a few swans in care and find a buddy for Natalie. That way they can learn from each other and ‘The release part 2’ will hopefully be more successful! Stay tuned for more!

Feel free to share a link to my blog but all images and videos are copyrighted. You can follow me on Instagram – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Natalie – the black swan!

Many cygnets (baby swans) come into care. This story is about Natalie ~ who was named after Natalie Portman, from the film The Black Swan!

Natalie was handed into a vet clinic by a member of the public. The member of the public told the vet that Natalie was found alone by the side of the road. Finding a cygnet alone, near a road is unusual since swans are dedicated and fierce protectors of their young. The vet contacted me and I took Natalie into care. Many people who find wildlife believe that they can raise the animals themselves. They don’t realize that it’s against the law in Canberra to keep wildlife for longer than 48 hours unless they are a registered wildlife carer. They also don’t understand that swans need specialized care to avoid problems such as imprinting, bumble foot and angel wing ~ conditions that can reduce the animal’s chance of release back into the wild.

Natalie was a little fluff ball! She ate instinctively and would seek me out as a source of love and warmth. The bond formed with waterfowl is a different kind of bond. They need love and warmth but are generally less tactile then marsupials. Natalie considered me to be mum, she would respond to my voice, come to me for warmth but she never liked to be touched or held.

Natalie grew very quickly. She lived inside in a special enclosure with a heat source to keep her warm, especially after swimming. If Natalie was living in the wild, she would have the large body of her parents to keep her warm, as both male and female swans care for the cygnets. Since Natalie was in care, I needed to create similar conditions for her to grow. After a few weeks, Natalie was able to enjoy some time outdoors in the sunshine.

Natalie continued to thrive! Fresh food, a water source, sunshine, love and warmth ~ her development was delightful to be part of. Over a couple of weeks she changed from a fluff ball to light grey.

Once Natalie was big enough, she was able to leave the comfort of the indoors and spend more time outside in a safe and supervised space. I would carry her food, so Natalie learnt to navigate the steps on her own.

Each night, however, Natalie came back inside where it was warm. Navigating the stairs back inside was a little more challenging!

Sometimes swimming even presented a challenge!

Before I knew it, my grey swan was turning black! Natalie continued to grow and change! She no longer required a heat source and moved permanently outside.

Natalie even helped with babysitting when two wombat joeys came to stay while their carer went away!

After three months in care, Natalie was a swan! No longer a fluff ball – but a beautiful juvenile swan!

We even practised our take off for flying! Encouraging Natalie to flap her wings helps her develop wing strength and the coordination she needs for take off! Swans require a long run to enable lift off from land or water since they have such large bodies. All this practise helps prepares Natalie for life in the wild.

Natalie and I enjoyed a swim after our flight test! I love the way she ’talks’ to me!

After months in care, Natalie can locate food, seek water for protection and is becoming strong enough to fly. The day will soon come that she is ready to be released!

Please do not feed wildlife – especially swans! Feeding swans (and other waterbirds) pollutes the water – their home. The food given by people floats on the surface of the water which means that swans do not use their natural feed position, plunging their head under water, to eat. Feeding swans also makes them less vary of humans and I have seen the deliberate and horrific injuries inflicted on wildlife by some members of the public. So please, if you love our wildlife, watch them, marvel at their beauty, but please leave them in peace to do what comes naturally to them. Animals do so much better without us in their way.

All images and videos are copyrighted. Follow me on Insta – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Crimson and Eastern Rosellas

Most people I meet love wildlife. They are fascinated by stories of cute wombat and possum joeys. But as soon as I talk about birds, people are turned off. Birds in care are lovely! Especially our Crimson (my favorite) and Eastern rosellas. Rosellas are native to Australia. They nest in hollows in trees and are found visiting most Australian gardens. They are really delightful birds.

Crimson rosellas

Each year dozens and dozens of baby rosellas come into care. Discovered after storms, ‘fallen’ from nests, attacked by predators or bird napped. Sometimes the birds arrive in care in groups, others arrive individually, however I keep them together, like a flock. This ensures that they live as they would in the wild and learn from each other. Their first stage of development takes place in a ’nest’ or hollow as they would in the wild. They are syringe fed a special formula – I make the syringe ’fly in’ and feed them and then fly off again! Just like making the spoon an airplane when feeding a baby! The rosellas dance when they’ve had enough and I watch their crop (a pre-stomach) fill to make sure they receive enough to eat.

A hollow
Demonstrating feeding.

Once the babies have their all of their feathers they move into my aviary. This is when they fledge – develop the wing muscles to help them fly. The aviary is set up with branches and swings that move so the birds learn that things in the wild move and change. They still rely on me during this time for feeding but they begin to explore other food like flowering natives and fruits. Feeding time is not easy! With marsupials I can bond and play with them to help them develop. With birds I have to stay removed to avoid imprinting – there’s minimal human contact and I only enter the aviary to feed the birds. However, avoiding them is not an easy task once they can fly! Feeding time can be chaos!

Feeding time is not easy!
Much more orderly!

Once all of the rosellas are flying and eating the natives, I stop syringe feeding them and I withdraw human contact – sneaking into the aviary only to clean and replace branches and natives. This is the pre-release stage! After a couple of weeks observing their weight and consumption of natives the aviary door is opened!! This is a soft release! Native flowers and branches are placed outside the aviary and the birds can come and go as they choose. They have food if necessary, shelter if necessary and the skills they need to survive. Sort of like letting the kids live in a granny flat on the premises for a while! Eventually though, the birds disperse into the wild and join larger flocks.

That’s the plan, that’s the training and the process! However, sometimes despite my best efforts, the ‘kids’ hang around!

It can be a little off having your rosellas watching you through the window!

Knocking on the window ”mum, mum, mum, mum!”
Mum! Come and feed us!

I was either very entertaining to watch or they just viewed me as a meal ticket! Two fat lazy birds hung around my window, my door and when I walked outside they’d fly down to say hello!

A bird landing on your head might seem cute but their behavior needed to stop! Although the birds were living in the wild, they still viewed me as approachable. Yes I was mum, but birds in the wild don’t stay with their parents – they fly away for a reason! Also it’s unsafe for birds to approach humans – I couldn’t risk the birds flying to, and landing on, anyone else. So every time I went outside for the next couple of days I’d clap my hands loudly. Finally they got the message!

All of the birds in my care were successfully released into the wild – the last two birds just needed a gentle reminder that it was time to go! I occasionally see rosellas in my garden but they fly away if I get too close. I hear them singing in the trees. It’s nice to know that I helped them survive, to find their way and to live their best life in the wild where they belong. ❤️

If you see birds in your garden, enjoy them. Please leave out some fresh water and plant natives to help our beautiful wildlife. Never feed wildlife, especially birds as the wrong food can be dangerous, feeding stations can spread disease and it makes birds think that they can trust and rely on humans!

Remember, in the ACT it’s against the law to have any wildlife in your care for longer than 48 hours unless you are a registered wildlife carer – check with your local area for their laws.

Please share a link to my blog but all images are copyrighted.

You can follow me on instagram wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

❤️ Fly free! ❤️

When things go wrong – wombat runaway!

This is the story of Merlin, a wombat escapee!

Merlin was due for release (weighing around 23 kilos) but instead of waiting for a suitable release site, he burrowed out of his enclosure, out of the garden and escaped around Mt Ainslie, one of the reserves in Canberra. Although technically ‘in the wild’, escaping into the suburbs is not the outcome wildlife carers work so hard to achieve! The suburb and surrounding reserve are busy – populated with dogs, cars and people! Since there are no burrows (or other wombats) he could even be burrowing under someone’s house. So naturally we called in help from the local news team to alert the public.

WIN news,Canberra 22 December 2021.

Filming the story took place at the home of one of our carers. The news crew filmed a wombat currently in care with another carer to show people what a wombat looks like and the approximate size. (Seriously, some Australians have never seen a live wombat!) The behind the scenes photos show how fascinated Merindah the wombat was with all of the attention! Merindah loved the camera! She clearly didn’t understand that this story wasn’t actually about her! What a womdiva (wombat diva)!

So back to Merlin the escapee…. The media assistance was a huge help. Several people called our wildlife hotline to report evidence that ’something’ had attempted to dig under their fence. This evidence provided a search area. Several carers walked the area looking for signs (poo, diggings etc) of Merlin. Then a couple of weeks later a member of the public phoned to report that she had discovered Merlin in her yard, happily munching the grass. Her house was approximately five kilometers from where he’d escaped! Merlin’s carer attended with a crate and called Merlin who recognized her instantly. As I mentioned elsewhere in my blog, carers and wombat joeys form a strong bond. Wombats live inside their mother’s pouch for seven – ten months, then follow their mum everywhere for another ten months! As carers we need to handle our joeys, bottle feed our joeys and encourage play experiences that enable the joeys to learn, so we also form a strong bond! Merlin approached his carer and sat at her feet happily munching the sweet potato that she provided – clearly oblivious to the stress and worry his escape had caused! Merlin’s short experience of ‘life on the run’ had been relatively successful (for him!) he looked fat and content. But he couldn’t remain in the suburbs. Canberra is known as the bush capital – but we don’t have (or need) wombats wondering around the suburbs.

Video – curtesy Elena Bunk -used with thanks.

Merlin was enticed into a create for the trip back home. Merlin remained in care for a two week period to ensure he was healthy.

Video – curtesy Elena Bunk- used with thanks.

After making sure Merlin was healthy with no resulting injuries from his escape, he was successfully released into the wild. A suitable bush site had been found with a beautiful creek and empty burrows – away from homes and cars!

A huge thank you to Merlin’s carer for sharing his story with me! Our carers do an amazing job, dedicated and so generous with their time. In this case, Merlin’s carer experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions and the grief of saying goodbye twice! But for now the memory of Merlin is etched on her heart (and the heart of many of us) as the wombat who couldn’t wait – the wombat escapee!

Merlin – released. Photo curtesy of Elena Bunk, used with thanks.

Live your best life now Merlin – in the real wild, where you belong! ❤️

Merlin as a baby! Image curtesy Elena Bunk. Used with thanks.

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