Mange ridden wombats are what wildlife carer Mel Johnstone and her partner Mitch Peronis have dedicated their time to recusing and treating and want to alert rural property owners in Camden and Wollondilly how they can play a part in helping these native animals survive.
“Wombats are the little Aussie battler; they are the underdogs,” Ms Johnstone of Belimbla Park said.
“With more people at home [during extended lockdown] we want people to keep their eyes on these animals.”
She wants people to call WIRES if they see the usually nocturnal animal out and about during the day – it’s an indicator that all is not well.
Ms Johnstone and Mr Peronis volunteer for WIRES and are also associated with Sydney Wildlife. She said while carers have their own preferences looking after orphaned kangaroos or wombats – looking after wombats with mange is “just as important”.
The couple has started a campaign to raise awareness about mange and what property owners –- or ‘citizen scientists’ can do if they see these wombats affected by mange.
Mange is from parasitic mites that burrow under the skin of the wombat causing thick crusty skin and hair loss. The mites sap all the nutrients out of the host leaving the animal to dehydrate and slowly starve. A female mite reproduces 15 eggs a week – it’s a continued cycle adding to the fact wombats have a slow metabolism.
Along with the obvious sign of fur loss – a crusty nose and eyes means the condition has advanced.
“The first sign is usually under the belly,” Ms Johnstone said, unfortunately, it is also a hard to see spot. It isn’t advisable to approach a wombat as they can be aggressive. A trained wildlife carer should be called if the animal appears sick.
Other illnesses such as pneumonia and wounds from dog attacks can also draw them out during the day.
“If people don’t pick up the phone it’s hard for us to help them.
“The more people who know about [mange] more wombats will survive.
“They can be treated and can recover if they are gotten to us time.”
Ms Johnstone who has been looking after mange affected wombats within Wollondilly for 18 months under the mentorship of a seasoned WIRES volunteer, said there have been wins and losses.
She said while they are perceived to be lonesome creature, they are actually the opposite.
“They are sociable. We had a wombat camera at one site where we saw three wombats sharing the one burrow.
“Each wombat that I have looked after have had their own personality. They are characters when you get to know them.”
To manage the mange in the wombats that cannot be easily located, WIRES volunteers apply ointments to flaps of burrows to administer to the affected animals. Every time a wombat enters of leaves it receives a dose.
Along with asking people to notify WIRES of wombats that are seen during the day, Ms Johnstone said it’s just as important to call if a dead wombat is sighted.
“It needs to be removed; mange can survive for three weeks on a dead wombat and sadly other wombats will go and investigate.”
WIRES Rescue call centre operates 24/7 on 1300 094 737 – members of the public can report sick, injured, orphaned or displaced wildlife.