When 10-year-old Kayleigh’s mum scooped her and her brother up to rescue two baby ringtail possums, the three of them were given a very important responsibility. They cared for the babies until they were healthy enough to be released back into the wild. Kayleigh and her family knew that even though they had bonded with the baby possums, it was vital to return them to their natural environment. Here’s Kayleigh’s story!

My Mum had just picked us up from school and we were walking through the door to our house, when suddenly Mum’s phone started ringing. Knowing that her conversations were normally long, Connor (my brother) and I went downstairs to finish our homework.

My Mum does volunteer work for an organisation called Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services. Sydney Wildlife volunteers rescue sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife, and then set them free when they’re ready.

Mum walked downstairs a few minutes later wearing a t-shirt with the Sydney Wildlife logo on it. She told us to do the same and meet her at the car.

Feeling a little confused, Connor and I shed our school clothes and popped on our Sydney Wildlife ‘uniforms’ then rushed to the car. It was rescuing time!

“Where are we going?” I inquired, “Who was on the phone?” Mum told us that the Sydney Wildlife office had been on the other end of the line. She told us that the office had asked her to pick up two baby ringtail possums and their injured mother from a lady in Dee Why. This, it seemed, was the only information she had.

We finally arrived at the lady’s house. “Hello! I’m Carmen,” the lady greeted us. “I’m Lynleigh and these are my children, Connor and Kayleigh,” Mum introduced us. It turned out that Carmen’s cat had attacked the mother possum and by the time we arrived the mother possum had already gone to heaven. Her tiny twin babies still lay curled up on her blood-covered body. The babies had run off during the attack and only returned to their mother when the danger had passed.

We separated the babies from their dead mother and popped them into a cosy knitted pouch in a rescue basket. We buried the mother and took the babies home.

Mum took one look at their blood-soaked fur and decided to give them each a nice warm bath. These twin babies were only 60 grams each. We decided to call the girl Mims and the boy Ranon (from the movie “Willow”). Due to their size, they had to have 4-hourly feeds – night and day – and they also had to be helped to do their toileting.

Soon after that we rescued two other female possums and buddied them with Mims and Ranon. We called one Kiaya and the biggest one Elora. They were all extremely cute and they all had individual personalities. Mims was often the first to start eating, but she always worked it off while running around with Ranon. Ranon was a very active possum and would stir at any sound. Elora was a fat lazy possum that was always sleepy. Kiaya was a plump sleepy possum and she was easy to fall in love with. Kiaya was probably one of my favourite ringtail possums.

Finally, when the largest possum was 500g, we released the group into the bush. For a while we would visit them to support feed them, but after a week, we needed to leave them to be wild possums. They were free at last!

By Kayleigh Greig (10 years old)

Wildlife campaigner Lindy Stacker tells us why it’s important to not keep wildlife as pets

lindyThere are many reasons why we need to ensure that our dwindling and threatened wildlife do not have to face yet another obstacle jeopardising their long term survival. For many decades, proponents wishing to see wildlife become suburban pets have been intimately connected with the pet trade and  view  wildlife as another commodity to be  marketed.

Environmentalists and animal welfare groups have long argued in the defense of wildlife.  We have witnessed the ongoing tragedy of individuals who can not look after their domestic dogs and cats which sadly leads to devastating outcomes. The problem of such owners being responsible for the special behavioral and dietary needs of wildlife is even greater.

  • Wildlife are extremely diverse and complex species thereby requiring specialised skills and
    Lindy cared for this pair of brushtail possums before they were healthy enough to be released into their natural habitat

    Lindy cared for this pair of brushtail possums before they were healthy enough to be released into their natural habitat

    experience in order to care for them appropriately

  • Keeping wildlife will mean keeping them incarcerated forever. They will not be able to stroll around the house or be taken for walks. They will usually need to be caged and/or restrained permanently
  • Other domestic pets will have to be restrained from predating on wildlife. Aside from the obvious risks, our fauna is especially prone to shock and stress. The scent of other animals nearby is enough to create a constant state of anxiety
  • When wildlife ‘pets’ become ill or injured, veterinary care will be needed. Very few vets have any specialised skills with treating wildlife, be they mammals, birds or reptiles
  • As nocturnal animals, people (particularly children) will want to touch and play with them when they prefer to sleep and hide
  • When these native animals grow, the problems associated with confinement will grow also. Many animals will face being abandoned, just as domestic pets are every day
  • Our fauna have specific dietary needs, along with behavioral and psychological  requirements, which the natural environment is best suited to provide
  • Foliage for many of our native animals will have to be picked each night. Most people are not prepared to do this. Again much training and expertise is required to understand what different species are required to eat
  • For many carnivorous animals, special types of insects and other kinds of animals will  need to be sourced and killed in order to feed tawny frog mouths, blue tongue lizards, raptors etc.  Even if these animals are bred by the pet industry, the nutrients required for optimal health will not be able to be replicated.  Freezing, storage, and preservatives will be necessary in order to supply  demand
  • The argument of protecting endangered species by domesticating them is extremely flawed.  The best way to protect them is to protect their habitat. Respect and awareness comes from appreciating wildlife in their own environment

Talk to friends and family about the issues raised above.  Learn about our magnificent wildlife and if you are truly motivated, consider becoming a wildlife carer!

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