And then there were two…

Elsie is thriving after 5 months in care and now weighs over two kilos!

Elsie – confident and happy!

Then another wombat joey arrives in care. Meet Barney – Barney Rubble! Barney came into care when mum was hit by a car. Unlike Elsie, who only had mum for the first three months, Barney arrived in care weighing around 600 grams and over 4 months old.

With Elsie in care my life is busy! Until Barney is off night feeds he stays with another carer during the week and comes to me on weekends. Life with two wombat joeys, running a small business and working full time is exhausting! At this age and weight, Elsie no longer requires feeding in the middle of the night. She can now get through 7 hours over night without needing a bottle. She still requires bottle feeds every 5 hours during the day. Barney, however, is younger and on a more frequent bottle feed schedule so back to night feeds when he’s with me on weekends! Just when I was getting used to having decent sleep Im back to feeling exhausted!

This is how most carers look – exhausted! All….of…. the….. time!!!!

Barney will soon transfer to me permanently to be rehabilitated and released with Elsie. Therefore it is important for them to build a relationship. Although wombats are generally solitary creatures, joeys in care thrive being buddied with another joey that is around the same stage of development. This buddy system also helps them establish wombat behaviours which can make release easier. Although all trained and licensed wildlife carers know to ensure wildlife go through a transition period of dehumanization before release, our evidence shows that the release is easier when releasing two animals together.

At first Elsie was very shy and hesitant around Barney. She has been with me for so long that she knows nothing else. Wombat joeys live closely to mum in the pouch – they hear the grunts of the mum and other body noises, they feel the sensation when mum rolls over, runs, digs or eats. Elsie spent considerable time in a cloth pouch down my top to provide her with the same sensations that she would have otherwise received but she also spent so much time in a humidicrib. Barney, on the other hand, had difficulty transitioning to humans and for a long time was an uptight ball! His feet were bright red – an obvious sign of stress and his little hands clenched tightly into fits. What could I do to help poor Barney destress? What works for you when you are stressed? Stress can effect every part of us and impact our health. The answer, to help Barney – a whole body massage using paw paw ointment! If you have doubts about the positive health benefits of massage – watch this video!

Barney whole body massage using paw paw cream!

Slowly over a couple of weekends Elsie and Barney started getting along. Although Elsie is a kilo heavier, she is quieter and less likely to hurt the smaller and younger Barney. Barney is male and like a bulldozer at play, being smaller means he’s less likely to hurt our gentle Elsie! It’s a wombat match made in heaven! Perfect.

Barney Rubble – darker colouring than our silver/grey Elsie!
Barney – the bulldozer!

More on this couple soon…..

Instagram page – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Elsie, huge growth, great development!

At six months of age and weighing over a kilo, the change in Elsie was incredible. She no longer needed to be kept in a humidicrib so she was moved into a portacot. Unfurred joeys are unable to generate enough heat to keep themselves warm and, in the wild have the constant warmth of their mother, so heat was still required for Elsie. Her portacot was set up with thermostat controlled heat pads. The heat pads are placed under her pouch to provide warmth but Elsie can move off them by backing further into or out of her pouch as required. She looked so tiny the first day in her portacot.

Then to much excitement Elsie began venturing out of the pouch! Joeys begin to emerge from their mum’s pouch when the mum is in the burrow. This is their first venture into the real world. Elsie began venturing out of her pouch and onto my lap. During this initial scary (for her) stage, I set her up in a small quiet room so she could become accustomed to her out of pouch world. Wombats don’t have particularly great eyesight but have very good hearing and sense of smell. It didn’t take Elsie long to become confident and begin to run around just as she would if she was playing around her mum in the burrow.

Learning through play is such an important part of development for all young – wombat, human or otherwise! When playing, Elsie is developing her confidence, learning to return to mum or her burrow if there is a problem, learning to bite, pounce, attack and dig. It’s also hilarious to watch and be part of! She really is a delight and constantly entertaining!

Shy at first, but venturing out!
Leaping, jumping, scratching!
Biting – it’s all about learning through play!
Clumsy but playful.

So what happens to Elsie while I am at work all day at school? She comes with me of course! At this stage Elsie still requires bottle feeding during the day. She has a special locked crate in my office that houses her in her pouch while I am teaching kindergarten. As long as she has her pouch she can go anywhere! She sits in her travel enclosure on my heated front seats in the car for the short journey to and from work each day. Most of the day she sleeps and I give her a bottle during my breaks.

Elsie charging upstairs after a long day at work.
Elsie – looking at herself over the armchair in the mirror. That shape you can see on her backside is the strong cartilage that protects them from bites from dingoes or other predators .

More stories about our Elsie to follow….

Mum! Pick me up!

Instagram page – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Elsie continues to thrive!

When Elsie came into care at just 3 months old and weighing just 120 grams she looked like a jelly bean! Her progress was slow. However each new drama was dealt with and her progress and development continued. After looking pale and being diagnosed with low iron – she took her oral iron and her levels improved. She was treated for wombat herpes and her blisters healed. She was treated for mange just to be on the safe side.

Having a bath to remove the mange treatment to ensure it doesn’t stay on Elsie’s fine skin for too long.

Then her eyes began to open! Best still, after 5 long weeks with no poo, she finally pooped! I nearly threw a party. I cant remember being more excited about an event and I’ve given birth to my own child! Wombats tend to take several days to digest their food – but five weeks with no poo is a long time. Admittedly she had a little help. A visit to the vet included an ultrasound and an enema – next time you have a bad day, just remember that your day doesn’t include giving an enema to a wombat joey.

Elsie’s eye open, beautiful black jewels .

The enema had the the desired effect and a small poo came. But then Elsie had a reaction to the enema and her skin broke out in big red welts. Up went my stress levels again. Several days past before the redness faded but otherwise Elsie survived that too.

The little noise you can here is the sound a baby wombat makes to call mum.

The next stage had me worried about her fur which seemed slow to come through. I wondered if she had been kept in artificial heat for too long. Elsie had the most beautiful pink skin covered in fine grey peach fuzz. But her fur development seemed slow.

Then Elsie reverted to her non poo ways! .Just as I’m getting ready to book Elsie into the vet for another ultrasound and enema, she pooped! This time it was healthy, firm poo – and a fair amount of it too! You may wonder if all wildlife carers are obsessed with poo or is it a strange obsession of mine.

Stuffed!

I can tell you that our lives as wildlife carers revolve around poo – the colour, texture, amount and smell! Poo helps us determine the health of any animal in care! We live for it, clean up after it and talk about it! Have you ever wondered how pouched babies toilet? It’s always fascinated me. A mother marsupial couldn’t raise a baby in an unclean area if the pouch was dirty….so think about it. Where does the toileting go? With macropods (kangaroos and wallabies) as well as possums, the mother puts her head in the pouch, stimulates the baby’s cloaca (its bum) and licks and drinks the toileting. As wildlife carers, we are always relieved to know that we don’t actually have to use our tongues! We can use a tissue! I also suspect that babies occasionally are thrown from the pouch by the mum because she tastes something in the faeces and identifies that something is wrong with her young. Then, we as wildlife carers, come and intervene and battle to make these animals survive – nature is pretty clever. So, kangaroos and possums reach down to a pouch….what does a wombat do? Her pouch faces backwards….. how could she reach? I suspect this is another reason baby wombats don’t poo as much when young. The answer to how they poo in a backwards facing pouch…as the Joey develops, it wriggles backwards so their backside is just poking out of the pouch and when they feel the cold air, they poop! The babies sometimes also eat their mother’s dropping because that corrects their gut flora – but I won’t be whipping up a batch of my poo for anyone! So, let’s move on…. we can finish that discussion by saying that Elsie now poops every day!

But that wasn’t the end of her problems! One afternoon Elsie was taken outside – carried in her pouch – in the winter sun for less than 3 minutes… when she had a huge reaction to sunlight! Her skin broke out and turned bright red wherever the sun hit her delicate skin. After a hasty retreat back indoors, her skin return to normal colour. Perhaps joeys at this age never see sunlight or perhaps the formula they are fed in care is lacking some vitamin. Luckily she has a long journey to release and plenty of time to get used to sunlight.

Skin reaction to the sun. Photo credit – Lindy Butcher.

At over 600 grams and around six months of age Elsie moved to being bottle fed every four hours. The change in feeding seemed like a dream. I still haven’t had a sleep-in for months but the extra hour between bottles was a huge relief. Elsie’s care was also transferred to me permanently! She will stay with me full time until release.

Fur slowly coming through !
Hiccups!

More of Elsie’s journey to come. You might wonder, with all the dramas we have to face with these little animals, is it worth it? The lack of sleep? Constantly making up bottles? Making sure the formula is right? That the teat flow is correct – not too fast or slow? Is the bedding temperature accurate? Constantly checking the weight and recording every move for our licensing requirements? The constant worry and stress? The vet checks? I can answer with a resounding YES! Every minute, every stress is worth it to to be able to return these beautiful animals back to the wild where they belong! I wouldn’t change a thing!

Instagram page – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.

Elsie the Joey Wombat from 120 grams

So let’s start with Elsie – the joey wombat.

Well let’s start a little before Elsie! Just before Elsie came into care, a tiny joey wombat was delivered to me weighing just 40 grams. Unfortunately she arrived cold and very dehydrated. She had to be euthanized, one of the saddest parts of my job. For days I felt very sad. Even after all these years and so much experience, I am still affected when an animal doesn’t survive.

Tiny – 40 grams – teat still in the mouth.

A few weeks later we received a call from a vet advising that another joey wombat had been handed in to them and needed to come into care. A member of public had done all the right things – they had stopped, checked the pouch, removed the tiny joey, kept her warm and delivered her straight to the vet! Well done wombat joey finder. I will forever be grateful.

A carer collected the joey and delivered her to me. A friend of mine was visiting at the time with her daughter. They had the privilege to see the tiniest joey we’ve ever seen and name her – Elsie!

Elsie weighed just 120 grams! She was so tiny! I was petrified! Initially I made sure she was warm, quiet and calm then gave her a few mils of water to establish hydration. The first night was the hardest. I fed her with a bottle and specialized wombat milk around the clock. I was determined this wombat joey would survive! She was three times larger than the last one so she had to make it. Luckily Elsie agreed! What a fighter she turned out to be!

Beautiful Elsie – 120 grams.

Since I work full time in a school teaching kindergarten, Elsie’s care was shared between myself and the wombat coordinator. She had Elsie during the week and I had Elsie Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – thankfully there were also many long weekends so I could also keep her on Mondays!

We worked together ensuring that the same care and feeding routine was maintained. Elsie was fed every two hours around the clock! Her feeds times, once she was stable, spaced out to bottle feeds every 3 – 4 hours for months! Injured wildlife don’t know that we need a sleep in, they don’t know it’s a long weekend – to survive they just need around the clock care!

Paw paw cream to keep the skin soft.

People often ask me, how can you do this and not love them? Of course we love them, without love they won’t thrive! They will grow if their basic needs are met, but we want them to thrive in care….! ❤️

Video credit – Lindy Butcher

Elsie suffered a few set backs – she suffered from wombat herpes, we suspected mange (although she was only skin!) she was too pale and then she didn’t poo for 5 weeks! Let’s face it, we all have to poo! The vets were great, ultra sounding her belly, treating her herpes. I suspected something was wrong one weekend when the other carer collected Elsie. I said she just looked pale – something wasn’t right. In fact Elsie looked a little grey. Sure enough, the vet took bloods and Elsie was iron deficient. Then a course of oral iron commenced once a day after a bottle. The drama never seemed to end.

So did she survive… this delightful creature…?

I’ll write more about her soon…..

Instagram page – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.