WA wildlife hospital’s new diagnostic machines expected to save lives of more injured animals

A man is holding a wedge-tailed eagle that is wrapped in a towel and is looking straight at the camera.

Western Australia’s leading wildlife rescue facility is hoping to save hundreds more sick and injured animals after an upgrade to its diagnostic equipment.

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.

Dean Huxley (left) and Meg Rodgers check the fractured wing of a wedge-tailed eagle.(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood )

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.

An emu is standing in its enclosure, surrounded by trees and another emu.
Emus are among the native animals treated at Wildlife WA that are set to benefit. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood )

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.

Meg is looking at a blood sample through a digital microscope.
Veterinarian Meg Rodgers can now perform in-house diagnostics on sick and injured wildlife.(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

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.

Meg is looking at the camera in her Wildlife WA uniform and name badge and is standing in front of medical equipment.
Dr Rodgers has been volunteering at the hospital for years and is now the senior veterinarian.(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“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.

A small sign for the wildlife hospital in front of the building and gives directions on where to go for different areas.
More than 5,500 animals have been admitted since the hospital opened in April last year.(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood )

“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.”


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