Mathilda - brushtail possum - T. Goulter
What does O.N.A.R.R. do?
O.N.A.R.R. is a community-based programme run entirely by volunteers. It operates under a Rehabilitation permit issued by the Department of Environment and Resource Management. Our group is based in and around the suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland.
O.N.A.R.R. came into existence during the 1980’s, to look after Flying Foxes. From that base, we have grown to be an organisation that caters for the needs of many Australian native creatures. There are seven separate Registers: Gliders, Possums, Macropods (kangaroos and wallabies), Birds, Other Fauna, Flying Foxes and Insectivorous Bats, and Reptiles. Each register has one or more Register Heads.
There is a lot more to raising and releasing wildlife than sticking bottles in mouths and leaving doors open.
Raising native creatures can be time consuming (on average a baby brush tail possum needs 6 to 9 months in care, kangaroos and wallabies need even longer!) Some species are very quick to raise, i.e. bandicoots and birds. They are often in care only for a couple of months.
The costs incurred in raising an animal are borne by the carer. Where we can, O.N.A.R.R. offers support, but our carers are aware that they need to be prepared to purchase the items necessary to raise an animal correctly, to ensure that on release it is a viable animal.
Not all of the animals that come into care are babies – we also take on injured older animals. Although we try our best to release an animal back into the environment from which it came, oft times this is not possible. The reason for this is that many animals that are rescued come in with no details at all on where they originated. Orphaned animals are exactly the same. A mother possum could be run down; the next driver collects the joey from the pouch and takes it home to his local vet, who rings a local carer. A pet dog or cat takes a mother possum, and hey presto, we have one or two little orphans to raise – many dog and cat owners feel really bad about this and often do not give their names or the whereabouts of site the joeys came from. Due to these reasons we are always looking for safe release sites for our native animals. The highest mortality rate is amongst our possums.
BECOMING A RELEASE SITE
O.N.A.R.R. would like to know if you are interested in being a release site for native species. We do not over populate an area; in fact we may only call you once or twice a year, if that. We have a mobile aviary which is brought to your property, the animal is installed, and food is supplied. We then ask you to look after the animal for a few days by feeding it until it becomes accustomed to the smells and sounds of the new area. Then the hatch on the top is opened, and the animal or animals are allowed to roam free, to find a new home and re-join the wild populations for future generations to enjoy.
If you have a property which you believe would be a safe site for release (acreage not in suburbia), with reasonable access to native habitats (no new developments going up just over the road) we would love to hear from you. There is no cost to join our group as a release site only, and you would receive our quarterly newsletter. Please consider this worthwhile project – after all, your house has been built using their homes.
You can contact the Secretary at
Habitat or Garden?
Are you aware that around two thirds of pre-European settlement bushland has now been eradicated from our country? Most of this bush has been removed so that we humans can colonise areas already colonised by native species.
Often the creatures that lived on our land before we did are not taken into consideration when a new housing estate is being built. Should the species being endangered be a national icon, like the koala, the press will often become involved, and some concession is made to preserve the habitat of the creature. But what about all of those creatures that are not so widely known and not so widely loved?
As a wildlife carer, and possum lover, I do not like it when people say to me “Oh, it’s only a possum! It’ll move elsewhere!” or “A snake? Where’s the shovel?” This shows the ignorance of people in general and Australians in particular.
As humans, we are often very house proud. We like a nice house to live in and to have our gardens looking ordered. We take into consideration the wellbeing of our pets, but all too often fail to take into consideration the welfare of our natives, cutting down trees with nesting cavities and moving dead fall from our land. These places are homes for native creatures.
In south east Queensland, there has been an identification of 134 species of wildlife that depend on hollows for survival. Good habitat that can support a diverse wildlife population may have three to 10 hollow bearing trees per hectare, each with as many as thirty hollows of varying sizes – after all not all of our wildlife is the same size. Tree hollows are an integral part of the ecosystem of our country, and the older the tree, the more liable it is to fall down, the more hollows it has.
If there is a real need to remove older trees, try to ascertain from the tree removalist if they can save some of the hollows for re-installing in other trees. Put up some habitat/nest boxes to supplement those already built by Mother Nature. There are some species that like their boxes or hollows to be horizontal i.e. Kookaburras and Lorikeets.
Know that nest boxes in trees are not the only cover you can supply. There are many ground dwelling species as well. Take into consideration that Brush Turkeys like gardening too. Be aware of the local lizards. Supply them with ground cover and grasses so they can go about their business like the rest of us. In our particular area we have Legless Lizards and Beared Dragons.
When supplying next boxes consider the fact that our wildlife don’t just find a hollow and move in – they are picky too! Factors such as the height and depth of the box, where it is situated, insulating from the weather, be it rain or sun, all play a factor in whether a box will be used. If you are concerned about damaging trees by attaching boxes, do what I do. I insert the wire that is holding the box up through a piece of black garden piping, so that no wire touches the tree, only the box. You can also use galvanised self-drilling screws, as they have a less harmful effect on the tree. If you remove the box though, make sure you remove the screws.
Also be aware of natural predators. As much as we like to think that nature is all cuddly and furry, there are creatures out there that prey on those cuddly and furries - being eaten is part of the natural process of nature. The strong survive, to make a species stronger, and everyone needs to eat.
The decision on who is to survive is not ours to make. We can give our creatures a second chance, but we can’t molly coddle them – this is not what caring is about.
As carers and human beings, we are here to give a helping hand, to try to repair some of the damage done by humans on a delicate environment. Put up some boxes, drop a few logs, plant some trees, but also let nature take its own course.
B. Clarke ©