Wildlife Ward A Gamechanger In Emergency Care

Published on 24 July 2023

Victoria’s new multispecies wildlife hospital – the RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo – is now complete and equipped to treat all native animals for injuries or in the event of a major environmental emergency.

The RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo has been made possible thanks to generous donations to the RSPCA’s Bushfire Appeal and Zoos Victoria’s Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund following the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.

The purpose-built ward is the final piece of a $3.3 million RSPCA and Zoos Victoria funding partnership, which includes funds from RSPCA’s National Bushfire Appeal.

Along with the RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo, the funding partnership has seen construction of the RSPCA Koala Ward at Werribee Open Range Zoo and an expanded laboratory at Healesville Sanctuary’s Australian Wildlife Health Centre, serviced by a fully equipped vehicle known as the RSPCA & Zoos Victoria Wildlife Response Unit.

The funding also allowed for the creation of a Zoos Victoria Wildlife Health & Welfare Specialist role to ensure wildlife health and welfare is integrated into emergency response plans, recovery programs and environmental protection policy.

The recently completed RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo is equipped to house many different Australian wildlife species, such as small mammals, reptiles and birds, with a particular focus on koalas and bat species during emergency events. Twelve holding pens – six indoors and six outdoors with pools – are climate controlled so care can be individualised for each patient during each stage of their treatment and rehabilitation. Last year, more than 1000 wildlife cases were treated by Melbourne Zoo’s veterinary team.

An intensive care room is available for the sickest patients, a large stainless-steel easy-clean treatment area allows for both procedures and food preparation, while instantaneous hot water will assist with the treatment of birds during environmental disasters, such as an oil spill.

Double access doors at the rear of the RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo allow the easy delivery of fresh materials, such as sand and feed while a flight tunnel will allow birds to test their wing strength to determine when they are ready to be returned to the wild.

Melbourne Zoo Head Veterinarian Dr Michael Lynch said injured wildlife will now be able to receive greater speciesspecific care and rehabilitation at Melbourne Zoo’s facility, with such specialised housing for a range of wildlife.

“This new space will allow us to provide the highest quality care for more animals in purpose-designed facilities that will significantly reduce stress and promote faster healing so they can get back to the wild,” Dr Lynch said. “The RSPCA Wildlife Ward at Melbourne Zoo is a gamechanger for the animal care we can deliver before, during and after emergency events.”

RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker said the facility at Melbourne Zoo will help futureproof Victoria to care for wildlife.

“Following the devastating 2019/2020 summer bushfires, the community showed an enormous outpouring of generosity and donated millions of dollars, and it became apparent our wildlife is so important to them,” Dr Walker said. “We’ve used this money to make sure Victoria is ready to care for wildlife when the next big disaster comes. From RSPCA Victoria, we thank everyone who donated from the bottom of our hearts. This money has been put to fabulous use.”

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