Easter egg hunting in the pens, NOT!
7.20.06 0 °F
ENTRY # 21A - Australia Diary – May 9 – July 13 – Fourth Week – 1st week with wallabies.
Friday, June 2
There were some mysterious bumps on the roof during the night, but Tina had told me they were either Simon or frogs. She said that there was nothing that was going to get me, so I slept pretty well. I had the alarm set for 6:20 but was up before hand. The day would start at around 7:00 am.
Let me tell you about the farm.
The farm is very much a work in progress. Just as with many horse people in the US, the care of the animals is their lives and all the time, energy and resources go into the animal care and housing. I am in a metal, walled and roofed shed, in a very comfortable bed with mosquito netting and my own cupboard. There is room for 3 other people in the shed. Next to the shed is the common kitchen/bathroom, dining room complex. Not all the walls are solid yet, but the weather so far is mild and they have a space heater for the evenings. Peter and Tina live in a temporary house across the way and there is a temporary building, funded by a US Foundation that is currently the infirmary and office. A second building is coming so that the two different areas (office and hospital) will be divided and there is cold room for all the food storage. It is a bit rustic but very functional. Later this winter, they will have additional help to rework all the pens and the feeding sheds so that they will have concrete floors and three walls to keep out the elements.
The water from the pipes is bore water and suitable to washing but not drinking. Rainwater is collected and used for drinking water. The kettle is always on and it is pretty much a self-serve kitchen. There is one refrigerator that is cold. There is another refrigerator that is not cold, but used to store things that need to be sealed. Most of the food is stored in plastic containers as there are all sorts of things that might come in a snack during the night.
There are 8 pens housing anywhere from 1 to 15 wallabies in various age and sex groupings. Each pen has one tent or building for the eating and water station and then several other tented areas of shade. Under some of the awnings are hollow logs or teepees made of branches for little hidey-holes for the wallabies. All the big pens have automatic watering systems in the feeding shed.
There are 10 intensive pens, much smaller pens that house 1-2 animals who are either recovering or for whatever reason, need to be closer to the house. These pens do not have automatic waters yet, but will soon.
On the outside of the pens there are several large macropod animals (macropod = big foot ie. Kangaroos or wallabys) that have been released. These are Agile Wallabies and we see them from time to time. Most of these animals were cruelty cases where they were either overly confined by uninformed owners or grew larger than the owner had thought. Predator, a female Agile Wallaby was confined in such a small cage that she kept beating herself against the wire. She had a permanently split lip.
7:30 – noon - clean pens
12-1 lunch on my own
2:00 sweet potato processing *
4:10 begin evening feeding
- Large pens – luchen (chopped hay), barley, sweet potatoes **
- Intensive pens – above received daily
- Bettongs – cut up fruit, mushrooms, avocados, meal worms, peanuts, grapes
This schedule may change depending on if we have joey’s that need bottles or new incoming animals.
- Sweet potato processing involves cutting off the mold on the outside of the veggies and then cutting them into very thin slices about the size of a small post it note. Some of them are really slimy as we are at the end of the potato load, but more are coming next week. In addition to slim, we sometimes come across worms when we cut them in half. Obviously, they don’t go into the feed bucket.
- * Apparently, the evening meal can change from day to day for the large pen, and therefore, there might be more of less feed and sweet potato to prepare
My assignment for the first week will be pens 1-3. Pen 1 is full of males and has lots of areas denuded of grass. Pen 2 has 15 females and it is quite large. In the corner is a hollow log, which I think, looks like a crocodile. Pen 3 runs across the back of the first two pens and is narrow and very sunny and is full of adult girl wallabies.
Tina told me the following facts about the wallabies - They are nocturnal and generally eat all night long, and lounge in the sun during the day. They have a very large cecum and will regurgitate their partially digested food and then re-eat it. Now that this colony has been established, they will become a breeding facility for them and when proper release sites can be found, they will be released into the wild. What determines a proper release site is a parcel of land, usually privately owned with sufficient acreage and trees for a natural habitat for the wallabies. Their main predators are dogs and cats and the destruction of their habitat.
The Bridled Nailtail Wallabies (Flashjacks) were thought to be extinct until the 1970’s and are now on the endangered list. This colony was taken from a mine site and when they were found, they were malnourished, neglected, had massive parasite infestations and their ears were loaded with ticks. I have seen the pictures and they still have several jars with the ticks that were taken from the ears. These wallabies don’t even reach my knee when they are sitting erect and have a dark and light bridle pattern over their shoulder area. They have the sweetest little faces and dark little front legs with 5 toes with claws. Their hind legs have only four toes, the central one is huge with a claw and the two very small ones on the inside of the large toe (that they are used for grooming) and one very small one on the outside of the large central toe.
Tina took me into Pen 1 and showed me the ropes. Armed with a rake, bucket for poo and rubber gloves, I entered the pen. First, we rake the wallaby poo pellets around the gate into a pile. Then go to the feed shed, empty the feeders (made out of black drainage pipe) into the bucket and rake the poo into the piles for pick up. This is an important area to clean as they tend to spill a lot on the ground and you want it as clean as possible. Put water into the feeders and let them sit for a while. Pour out the water and let the feeder dry in the sun as you do perimeter poo pick up. Peter often tells me to make a game out of things, so I view poo patrol as an extensive easter egg hunt. Wallaby poo resembles little easter eggs without the foil wrappers or little dark almonds. Sometimes you find a little clutch of them, but usually, they are by themselves. That is what you need the gloves for as you pick them up and put them in the bucket. After the perimeter check, there are all the tented areas to look through and also any of the bare patches.
As we entered Pen 2 and were on the way to Pen 3 at the back, we found a connection for the water pipes leaking. Matt and Tina made a quick repair with wire and we were waiting for Pete to return from the zoo to fix it. With the pipe broken, I would need to bring water buckets to each pen for cleaning and filling the water fountain.
Tina usually does a pen in about 40 minutes, Matt an hour and today, it will be interesting to see how long it takes me. I ambled around the first pen and felt that there was no way that I had covered the entire area. Every time I thought I had finished an area, if I approached it from a different direction, I saw all kinds of poo that I missed before. (Tina said this is a common finding, the main thing is to develop a system and follow it.) By the time I was done with Pen 1 (it took me 2 hours), my socks were covered with foxtails. I took my break and pulled most of them out, put on clean socks and my gaters and went into Pen 2. During my break, when I removed my gloves the water just poured out of the glove, as it was very hot. Then I took my pail full of wallaby pellets to the flowerbed and dumped.
Pen 2 is the largest pen, almost a square with 15 immature females. They are the friendliest pen, and although they ran from me today, I was told that the next few days they would come out and watch me work. On this pen, I decided to do the gate, the feed station, walk the perimeter in both directions and then do the middle sections. Easter egg hunting began and it was more fun, but still took 2 hours for me to finish this pen. After each pen, I went back to the house, had a drink, a potty break and a little snack. It was getting hotter, so on went the sunscreen and the off went the fleece vest, also covered in foxtails.
This was the day that Sugar, the grey kangaroo, was going back to his foster mom for more care before he was released. I had hoped to give him another bottle, but time was of the essence and I was in the pen cleaning.
Pen 3 was the pen that spanned the backside of the other two pens. It was filled with more mature females and they were very wild. This pen had the most sun by the time I got to it and my back was hurting. Tomorrow, I plan to do this pen first. I also decided to start earlier so that I could be done before noon and the hottest sun. I finally finished at about 3pm and was pooped. I had missed helping get the sweet potatoes ready for the wallabies for dinner. At 4:15, Matt and I began feeding the pens.
Matt is a semi-permanent Australian volunteer. He travels around Oz on a bike (called a push bike by Tina). Matt is instrumental for Tina and Pete as he has a tree nursery and has taken over most of the landscaping and tree planting in the pens.
Today, the wallabies received a mixture of chopped alfalfa hay, barley and sliced sweet potatoes. I took my bucket into my three pens and spread them evenly in the number of feeders. If I spilled, I would have more cleaning to do in the morning. After I had delivered my three buckets, I assisted Matt as he had all the other pens, both large and small to do. The intensive pens, with only one or two animals, received handfuls of feed. There are two Bettongs (sort of large hopping rats) and I watched as he prepared their special food. Bettong mix includes muesli, 5 peanuts in their shells, 5 grapes, 2 slices of banana, 2 slices of kiwi, ½ of a large mushroom, ¼ of an avocado, 2 inches of corn on the cob and the icing on the cake, 5 meal worms. YUK! The last pen that we fed was a large pen with a single, blind, female red kangaroo, named Chatty. She knows every inch of her pen and is very sweet.
As we were cleaning up the pails, there were some loose agile wallabies in the yard helping themselves to the outer feeding station. Predator was one of them, but there is also Baxter, Thelma (large Red roo with joey in the pouch), Delilah (large red roo with nasty attitude) and several others.
We had roasted chicken sandwiches for dinner. Yum.
Tina had a call from Pete that he was bringing home an injured grey kangaroo with pinkie (hairless, eyes-still-closed-roo in her pouch about 3 months old) home for doctoring. The mom had received her tetanus shot the other day, and when she came out of anesthetic, panicked and ran into a wall injuring her mouth. She subsequently developed tetanus and had not been able to deal with the joey for three days. By the time they decided to move her, her joey was covered in excrement and her pouch reeked.
As Pete pulled up in the truck, I helped carry the roo into the hospital. Tina had a bed made up on the floor and the incubator set up ready to receive the newly cleaned joey. The roo had been sedated and had Valium. She had urinated and it had a little blood in it. As Tina would have to be up all night monitoring the roo and feeding the pinkie, I volunteered to watch them as she had dinner with her friend and daughter who had come to visit the new baby. The female roo was fairly quiet, and yet kept stretching. I was warned to watch if she was seizing, which is common with tetanus. Tina left me with a two-way radio. When I used it just trying to say that the pinkie was very active and needed a feed, Tina appeared at the door like a shot.
I went to bed and asked Francis and Lilith to send the best to every one who was involved.
Saturday, June 3
When I woke up this morning, I was told that the grey roo died overnight. She started to seize, so Tina euthanized. The hope is that the pinkie survives. The pinkie joey, a little female, is still going and getting very active but is not drinking enough consistently.
Today, I did the pens in a different order and kept telling the inhabitants that I was just the maid cleaning up after the party. For whatever reason, I kept hearing Cleaning Women from Working going through my head.
As I was doing pen 2, full of juvenile females, I met Molly, a little girl wallaby, who appears sweet but apparently has quite an attitude. Tina had mentioned that she wanted to bring her in for a bowl of milk last night, but we had forgotten when the ill roo and joey arrived. As I went to work on the feed shed, a little wallaby came through the bush, appeared unstable on her feet and fell over on her side. Marty came out and picked her up and said that she might have had snakebite. By the time I was back in the house, Tina had determined that it was Molly and that she had secondary pneumonia. Tina started antibiotics and had put her in a sack to keep her warm.
Later in the day, Tina asked me to try and offer her some solid food. I sat with her on my lap and she took one piece of sweet potatoes and began to eat, but then stopped. Not much going into her. When Tina came, she was trying to give her electrolytes or bowl of milk and Molly latched on to her top lip and bite her three time through the upper lip. Tina was in shock for a bit, but recovered and we betadined her lip. Tina also noticed that Molly had a collection of fluid under her skin near her pouch. As we watched her over the next day, the swelling enlarged to the point where her entire chest had fluid.
The entire family and the friends from the south went to visit a neighbor. As the pinkie needed to be feed every two to three hours, they packed all the supplies and took the pinkie with them in a specially made cooler that can be plugged into the cars heater.
Matt and I stayed home and ate roasted chicken sandwiches and I spent an evening in front of the space heater with a book and Wiggles asleep on my lap.
Sunday, June 4
Before I went off to do my pens, I had Wiggles on my lap who was rooting around and waiting for her bottle. Suddenly, my leg was getting warm and Wiggles had begun to pee on me. As I moved her she stopped. I have been christened now by a koala, a sugar glider and a wombat. Tina says that wombats tend to pee on their mothers and eventually learn to pee by themselves. Tina is usually wet at least once a day.
The cast has come off of Coopers leg and he is a different dog. Frankly, I wish they would put the cast back on him, as he was much nicer with the cast. Now he is a little monster.
As I did my pens today, I went through all the different marketing and fundraising ideas I could come up with, mainly with school kids and partner school projects. Tina is going to put me in touch with the woman, Lee, who writes most to the agencies grants so we can brain storm with other options.
I had hoped to say goodbye to Marty and Kasia before they left, but they had to leave while I was still in the pens. Marty had a 7-hour drive back to Brisbane and we heard later that the baby had screamed and acted up the entire journey. What should have taken her 7 hours was closer to 9.
Out in the yard as we were feeding, I noticed animals that appeared much larger than the wallabies. They were female Grey Kangaroos who were helping themselves to the sweet potatoes peelings in the garden. They had been released from the farm and come back to visit occasionally. One of them was Thelma and she had a large joey in her pouch. She let me get quite close and I hope I have some good shots of them.
As it was Sunday, Pete spent a lot of time catching up with chores that don’t get done during the week, like cleaning the rat cages, making chaff for the wallabies. He also cooked a marvelous dinner of steak and gravy and veggies.
The nights have been very cold and I have three wool blankets and two sleeping bags to cover me. Tonight, I finally had the system down where I had all of them tucked in and I entered the nest from one side. I also wore my fleece to bed and slept very well.
Monday, June 5
Regular day with only Tina, Matt and I on the farm. The pens went fine, but I find that my back is hurting by my third pen. I came across another female down in pen 2 and as I couldn’t tell if she was sick or simply sunbathing, I asked Tina to have a look. By the time she arrived, the wallaby was gone and from now on, if I find somebody, I will disturb him or her to see if they can still hop. In my last pen, I came across a male with only one eye. He had lost it when he was very young. Also in the male pen, there was a conversation going on through the fence to the next isolation pen. The male hopped in front of me, finally got around me and kept up his conversation. Love is in the air! The song that kept running through my head during my pens today was “Everybody ought to have a maid” from Forum.
I had a restful afternoon with a shower, laundry, cuddle and reading with Wiggles and then Tina and I made a rush to town before the store closed. The Town of Marlborough is very small, 50 people and only three streets. It has a hotel, pub, post office, shop, elementary school, church, museum and a few other public service offices. Very sweet and quiet. The town was relocated to be closer to the rail line, but they don’t have a depot and the train never stops. At the old site of the town, which is now a pasture, you can still see the old street signs. We went to the Shell station which recently changed owners. They have been open for 3 months and they still don’t have any gas or diesel.
Tonight was homemade pumpkin soup for dinner.
I have completed 5 days of work with the wallabies and evaluated today if this is the work for me. What came to me is that I don’t mind the physical work for a while, but after a time, the every-day-edness of the work would wear on me. I watch Tina and Pete and see these people making such an effort and they obviously love the animals, but still need to bring in more money for the farm, so they have to work outside. Rockhampton is 1.5 hours away from them, so the commute is long and uses lots of fuel. Even though the town is really not that far, it appears to be too far for the scouts or school groups to come for tours or days on the farm that might help to increase their donations or awareness.
Pete is currently working at the Rocky Zoo 5 days a week, but he will go back to part time at the zoo, and Tina will begin working at the zoo 5 days a week. Their need for volunteers is huge, for the daily cleaning and the need will only increase in a few months when they add the additional cages, take on an additional 100 animals and finish the breeding pens and begin the real breeding program. That is just the general daily needs and the workload increases tremendously when they have sick, orphaned, abuse cases or pinkies that need around the clock care. Tina said that they receive volunteers from I to I, Green volunteers
The farm and the agency AACE – Australian Animals Care and Education is under the jurisdiction of a bevy of federal and state agencies that all have a say in what they can do, but leave them with no power or say on how the animals are released and the conditions for their relocation. It sound like some of the previous releases were on land that had promised resources and protection of the animals, but that did not come to pass. They released 56 animals, but within 4 months, only 4 of the animals could be found.
APACT – Australian Plants Animals Conservation Trust will be the new non-profit that will allow them to continue their work and allow them to receive tax-deductible donations. They have begun all the necessary paperwork but as they submit things they are told that new things are missing. Like so many small agencies, they are taken up with the daily running of the facility and at times aren’t able to continue with all the follow up needed to get things ironed out. How I wish they were able to find someone who would work in the office for a short time to help catch up with all the necessary paperwork and follow up in order to ease their minds and pocket book for a while.
I asked Tina and Pete what keeps them going. They could not really answer me other than to say that they will keep doing it as long as they can and help as many animals as they can. They are good people.
I have learned from Tina that she only receives $20 a day ($280 total) to feed me with no additional funding from the agency that placed me at the farm. Apparently, they can apply for an additional $1500 grant, but once received, the likelihood of every receiving it again is slim. As I reread my literature, they say that 1/3 of the money that I paid should go to the project or the helping hand foundation. I can also apply to encourage more funding for them, which I will do.
Tuesday, June 6
Quiet day with only Tina and I. Matt went into town with Pete and Jessica was working at the fair in Rocky.
Molly appears to be better and the swelling is going down. We put her out in a small cage today to get some air and sun. She is still a little pissy when you try and touch her back, but allows Tina to feel her stomach. YAAH!
Today, Alice (one of Tina’s rehabilitators) arrived bringing to stay with us Bruce (grey kangaroo), Bernie (red kangaroo) and Abby (a striped wallaby) all in bags. As she arrived the dogs went ballistic. Alice is on her way to Sydney as her mother-in-law is dying. So we will have three babies to give bottles to at least three times a day. Bruce arrived with a leg bandage as he had a broken back leg that had been set. Alice had said when she removed the bandage, Bruce was not able to use the leg. We removed the bandage and the leg had not set properly, but Bruce used it with no apparent problem.
The landscape around the farm is lovely. Gently rolling paddocks with hills in the distance, Eucalyptus trees and tall yellow grass and lots of brahma cross cattle in the neighboring farms. I awake to crows and magpies calling and the guinea fowl moving about as a unit. The guinea fowl are funny, grey and white speckles and naked heads and very herd bound. As I was waking up this morning, I heard the sound of twigs snapping and couldn’t figure out what it was. As I was cleaning pen 1, I saw what made the sound. The guinea fowl had all flown up and landed on the top of the gate into pen 2. They were then using the same technique to exit pen 2. When I finished pen 1, about have the group was still in pen 2 and not sure what to do. I opened the gate and got around behind them and shooed them out. Silly birds!
Wednesday, June 7 – My day at the fair
Today, Sophie from England arrived to help us. She is 24, has done lots of animal volunteer work in Thailand and found out about this placement from the Green Volunteers. She is very nice.
Tonight we went to the Marlborough Fair, with the pinkie in a pouch that we carried with us and had to stop twice to give her medicine and syringes of milk. We went for several reasons; to see Simon, Pete’ boss ride in the camel races, to eat fair food, to check out the livestock exhibits and to buy wonderful candy that you can only get in Australia. The camel races were something to behold. Three single hump camels were saddled with that appeared to be a two-seater saddle, but the jockey rode the back saddle. They were lead ¾ of the way around the track and then released and the galloped for home. Nobody fell off and Simon won his qualifying heat. We had to leave because the pinkie needed feeding. Fair food – much the same as our county and state fairs, including Dagwood Dogs (our corn dog but dipped in ketchup). I prefer mustard that is not a standard request, but they managed to find it for me. I also ate French fries that were okay, a waffle cylinder that they normally fill with cream (I had mine plane) and some wonderful curried peanuts from the hot nut man. We searched and searched for the Australia candy, but the booth had sold out before we got there. We went to another booth to look for honeycomb and I bought some. I had always thought it was honey that had been spun into candy, but it turns out it is corn syrup and baking soda. Hmmmmm? A bit of disappointment and the candy I bought had way too much baking soda. Oh well. The livestock exhibit was as expected, but there were some interesting short stature cattle called Square Meaters! Apparently there is a drive to go back to the shorter stature cattle that mature a little faster.
Thursday, June 8 – I smell Poo
Today we took on another foster baby, a Wallaroo called Cody. Wallaroos are between the wallaby and the kangaroo in size and are a distinct breed in and of themselves. Cody is on four bottles a day and needs to have her toileting done for her, as she is still little. She is medium grey all over with bright black eyes and when she is out of her bag, she had one speed – full on. She is a hoot. She adjusted to us feeding her within one day and soon Sophie and I were swapping feedings so that she became accustomed to different people feeding her. After feeding, you open the other side of the pouch and get lots of tissues ready. You gently stroke her coacha to stimulate the flow of both urine and poo from almost the same aperture. Their pee is very strong smelling and the poo is nuggets. Jessica called them moaning mertles because as you are toileting them, they give off a high-pitched moan.
We went into Marlborough today to go to the post office and the little museum. Just inside the door was a huge English Bull dog named Big Girl. She was lovely and very friendly. The museum was very cute and small and showed us the local history including the local Bush Ranger (outlaw) who ended up going to California and was killed in the early 1900’s.
Tina and Jessica were working on Jessica’s assignments for her student work program at the zoo. As Tina was attempting to make sure that everything was in place and Jessica would pause in the conversation not interested in look around and say, “I smell poo”. I couldn’t help but laugh as the sugar glider had just arrived and peed, Wiggles had pee’d on the lounge, the roos and wallaroo where usually in slightly smelly bags. Who wouldn’t have smelt poo?
Friday, June 9
Today Sophie wasn’t feeling great so I took on Cody and the bottles and toileting. She really is very cute. Sophie and I are also changing every feeding with Bruce and Bernie. Bruce is able to stand when he is fed, but you have to hold his little hands to steady him. Bernie is our high maintenance red, who prefers to be fed in his bag, does not want to be touched, sucks one of his testicles for comfort and prefers to be hand fed bits of sweet potato without any rind. After we have bottled the boys, we try and get them outside so that they can toilet and run around in the sun. As soon as they are finished, they hop back into the kitchen and want to be let back into their bags. As I was heading back to finish one of my pens, Bernie came around the corner and was barking at me. I couldn’t’ figure out what he wanted until I went into the kitchen and found that Bruce had loaded himself into Bernie’s bag. The affront of it! We offered Bernie Bruce’s bag, but he wanted his old bag. We offered Bernie a new bag, but he wanted his old bag. So we had to oust Bruce by pouring him onto the floor, and then loaded Bruce back into his first bag. Oh, the drama’s of being a red kangaroo!
Jessica was going away for the weekend to spend it with a friend as we very excited. It must be hard for kids who live on the outlying farms to have a social life and I am pleased she will have a weekend away.