by Wildlife Carer Rachel Aspinall
The goal of caring for wildlife is to rehabilitate them back into the wild when they are ready to survive out there. Whether this is nursing a sick or injured koala back to health, or raising a mob of kangaroo joeys, one day it’s going to be time for them to go.
The release itself can be quite tricky. Many animals are territorial, and if they’ve been in care for an extended period of time, other adults may have moved in on the area they were taken from to begin with.
Guidelines vary between species, for example kangaroos can be released up to 100 km from their original rescue location, and are typically released in groups with others if orphans are raised together. Koalas under current guidelines must be returned to within 5 km of their original location and are released alone, as they are solitary creatures.
In many instances, of course, returning animals too close to their original rescue site runs the risk of them encountering the same sort of incident that brought them into care in the first place.
With kangaroos and other macropods, the wide release radius at least allows them to be returned to the wild somewhere relatively safe, away from threats such as busy roads or heavily populated areas full of roaming domestic animals.
The narrow permitted area for releasing koalas makes it a bit trickier to ensure they’re going back somewhere safe, and adult male koalas are particularly territorial.
There are two different kinds of release: the ‘hard’ release is effectively taking the animal to their release location and leaving them there to fend for themselves. This is more commonly the route for releasing adults after recovering from an injury, although specific species, such as koalas, also face hard release under current guidelines.
The second is the ‘soft’ release: typically the process used with a mob of juvenile macropods, they will be initially exposed to the wild in a controlled environment such as a fenced paddock before gradually being allowed to roam beyond it.
This tends to be done in an area near a carer or friendly associate, as they can visit the area regularly to check on the animals as they adjust to their new location, and give them somewhere safe and familiar to return to during their habituation process, until they are confident enough to explore and survive freely on their own.
Not every wildlife carer lives adjacent to bushland, but with the help of some friendly locals, we find appropriate places to release wildlife that are ready to be wild again.
Many of them regularly pass on happy news about seeing our animals growing up and even forming new families of their own when they spot them in the great outdoors.
There’s no news better than hearing these success stories of released wildlife living well and having babies of their own!