Western Australia’s leading wildlife rescue facility is hoping to save hundreds more sick and injured animals after an upgrade to its diagnostic equipment.
- New equipment will allow Wildlife WA vets to diagnose animals quicker
- Blood test results come back within half an hour instead of several days
- It will help save animals who may have previously been facing euthanasia
Wildlife WA, in Perth’s southern suburbs, is Australia’s first holistic trauma hospital for native wildlife, admitting up to 50 animals a day.
It provides specialist emergency procedures for injured animals and rehabilitates them for release.
Operations director Dean Huxley said the hospital had admitted more than 5,500 sick and injured animals since it opened early last year, with 40 per cent released back into the wild.
But despite having around 280 volunteers, he said the facility was limited in its ability to provide the best care because of the lack of specialist equipment and staff.
“Veterinarians aren’t paid to treat wildlife, they do it for free and they do it out of a sign of goodwill to the community, but they’ve got businesses to run, they’ve got their own priorities with their own patients, Mr Huxley said.
“So we’re really trying to push the boundaries of what can be treated so that we can get these better release outcomes in the future.”
New machines, better treatment
For more than two decades, WA Wildlife worked out of a tiny old cottage on site, previously trading as Native ARC from 1998 until 2021.
The current Bibra Lake hospital was funded by the City of Cockburn, and at almost 700 square meters, it is one of the largest wildlife hospitals in Australia.
A Lotterywest enabled the hospital to be fitted out with specialist equipment, enclosures and resources, and has also grants a new range of diagnostic equipment, including bloods machines.
It means blood test results that used to take several days to receive now come back within half an hour.
And for senior veterinarians like Meg Rodgers, that difference could be vital to saving an injured animal.
“We’re very grateful that we’ve now got this lab equipment because it means when an emergency does come in, we can get those results straight away, and then we can use that information to make quick diagnostic decisions on what to do, “Dr Rodgers said.
“It allows you to make decisions about how you’re going to manage those patients, whether they need a blood transfusion or whether they need alterations in how you’re managing their fluid therapy, for instance.”
Marsupials, birds to benefit
Dr Rodgers said the equipment also helped in determining whether the animals were being put through too much trauma.
“We’ve got microscopes on site so we can test all sorts of things and just get that diagnosis straight away, which means the animals, if they do require euthanasia, won’t have their suffering prolonged,” she said.
Species that are expected to benefit the most from the new machinery include marsupials with significant viability concerns, pelagic bird species presenting with exhaustion, chronically unwell reptiles, chelonians and more.
“For kangaroos that come in with quite severe metabolic disturbances, [the diagnostics] will greatly assist us in being able to help cater a treatment plan for them and make treatment for them a lot easier and allow us to get better outcomes,” said Dr Rodgers.
Raising the bar for sick wildlife
Having equipment onsite also offers a cheaper alternative for the hospital.
“Some of the more specialist stuff like endoscopy and ultrasound, we would pay quite significant fees to get those services done, but now we’ve now got vets experienced in those types of procedures that can do them in house and that saves us a lot of money,” said Mr Huxley.
“We can then direct that to saving more animals and helping other animals, as opposed to having to select a few that can utilise that budget.”
Mr Huxley said the new veterinary diagnostics not only helped treat animals brought to the hospital, but also allowed them to support other wildlife rehabilitation groups.
“We can take X-rays on site, we can do ultrasounds, we can do endoscopy, we have bloods machines, and we have partnerships with other veterinary practices, so we can do things like CT scans,” he said.
“These machines allow the vets to make those really informed, sensible decisions, which is going to have a much better outcome for the animal long term.
“So us being able to have veterinarians and this equipment on site is just going to raise the bar for wildlife medicine rehabilitation in Western Australia, and we hope to be able to contribute to wildlife medicine going forward.”