The Story of Hokey

by wildlife Carer Rachel Aspinall

Caring for wildlife is full of emotional highs and lows. It can be both physically exhausting and financially draining, but after spending months nursing an animal until it’s old enough for release and seeing it have that positive outcome makes it all worthwhile.

When Garry found a dead Red Necked Wallaby close to where he lived, three hours’ drive west of the Sunshine Coast, he made a promise to care for the orphaned joey he found. True to his word, he cared for Hokey and released her from his property as she became independent.

Every few days, Hokey would revisit and enjoy a couple of treats from Garry. On a return visit, he noticed that Hokey’s forearm was broken and hanging painfully downwards.

He rang the local vet who recommended that she be euthanised – long-term care for a wild animal with a broken limb is very difficult and usually not considered worth the effort to try and save when there are always so many other animals who need care.

For Garry, however, having raised young Hokey himself, this was not an option. He spoke to another vet who agreed to sedate Hokey for a trip to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital (AZWH).

Adult macropods don’t usually cope well in a captive environment as they undergo treatment, once they are fully developed they become skittish and wary of humans, and the stress of being trapped in an enclosure often leads to injury or in severe cases even cardiac distress.

However, since Hokey had been hand reared, the decision was made to stabilise the fracture with a cast and keep her enclosed. I received a call to care for Hokey during her treatment as I have significant experience dealing with macropods, including ones with injuries, as well as the time and experience to give her regular care and be able to bring her back to AZWH for weekly reviews.

She would need a small enclosure to limit movement, keeping her from damaging herself further, and to make weekly capture for reviews less challenging.

My existing enclosure was not suitable as it had several very small macropods currently being reared – introducing a wild young adult would be an unsettling experience for both them and her. I was very lucky to have my husband and a neighbour work hard in intense heat to build a new enclosure for Hokey.

Every week, the AZWH team would come and sedate Hokey with a dart gun to transport her to their facilities to scan her broken arm and otherwise check on her health. She quickly grew aware of the capture process, becoming very evasive and one day collapsed due to stress myopathy.

This was an extremely stressful time for both of us, and I was very worried for her health that night as she was kept at AZWH overnight on fluids and medication for her stress.

Fortunately, she recovered overnight and scans revealed that her fracture was healed sufficiently for her to go home and return to the wild. Garry drove to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital for collection and release on Christmas Eve.

And now, less than a year later, Hokey has been living successfully in the wild and hopped by Garry’s home to proudly show off her new joey. He sent me the photos he took of the pair and moments like this are what make all the hard work worthwhile.

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