Why your garden could be the key to saving injured wildlife

The Gordon Wildlife Alliance is taking an innovative approach to wildlife conservation.
Jessica Robertson (wildlife carer) / Supplied

Just as injured native animals need an extra helping hand, so do the carers regarding food supply.

Native animals like possums, joeys, koalas, and even black cockatoos can easily be injured or develop sickness. Across Australia, there are a huge number of wildlife agencies, organisations, and groups that endeavour to help Aussie fauna.

But a group in Gordon, Victoria, is taking it a step further. 

The Gordon Wildlife Alliance is a volunteer-run community group dedicated to “wildlife conservation, environmental advocacy, and wildlife rescue” in central-west Victoria. 

Not only does this organisation help rescue and protect wildlife within its local area, but it has also begun an initiative called ‘Browse Gardens For Wildlife In Care’ that further helps the rehab process. 

We’ve reached out to Heidi, an active member of the Gordon Wildlife Alliance, to hear all about how this project works and what you can do to help: 

The ringtail possums Summer and Ruby are snacking on a tree branch. Jessica Robertson (wildlife carer) / Supplied

The Browse Gardens For Wildlife In Care project

The Browse Gardens For Wildlife In Care project is an initiative which hopes to provide adequate food supplies to animals and wildlife in care. 

Injured animals or animals undergoing rehabilitation are often very far from their usual habitat. While wildlife centres and caring facilities make tremendous efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife in need, finding the right food sources can be difficult.

Browse Gardens involves farms, households, and individuals who are able to offer native trees and plants on their property as a food source for carers to take and feed their animals. The project also encompasses properties that can plant and grow these foods for joeys, possums, and other injured wildlife so they have the right food in their diet. 

Browse Garden participants on the left, Cheryl and Pat are with wildlife carer Jessica Robertson and a possum caravan. Jessica Robertson (wildlife carer) / Supplied

Why is feeding rehabilitated animals native food so important?

Heidi has two words for you ‘gut microbiome’. As she explains “Most of the mammals we have in care have highly evolved digestive systems, that utilize friendly gut microbes and enzymes to extract maximum nutrition from a diet that would otherwise be indigestible and often toxic.”

In other words, native animals have evolved to live in harmony with the surrounding local habitat, so providing food from that habitat will mean their digestive system and the rest of them can heal properly. A great example of this is orphan joeys: 

“Joeys, still in the pouch, are receiving those microbes through the mother’s milk, and later, they may get more through being fed caecal pellets from the Mum. Thus once they start weaning, they are able to safely eat and digest local leaf. However, if an animal is displaced, and being fed different leaf, for which its gut does not have the matching microbes to safely digest, it can lead to big problems.”

Heidi describes matching the gut flora of the animal to the biochemistry of the plant as a vital endeavour, and will ensure a healthy future of the animal in need. 

A possum snacking on a bottlebrush branch. Jessica Robertson (wildlife carer) / Supplied

Native plants you should consider adding to your garden

Although the Browse Gardens project only encompasses the central-western area of Victoria, Heidi has some great insight into native plants and trees you can plant in your garden to support wildlife. 

Anything in the “Grevillea, Leptospermum, Callistemon, Kunzea, Melaleuca and Banksia groups” will not only give local wildlife love, it will also “look great and really add aesthetic appeal to your home”. 

If you are hoping to directly help native animals in your area, Heidi suggests reaching out to your nearest wildlife shelter or carer to ask whether their cared for animals are in need of food supplies. After that, local nurseries and plant centres can guide you to finding the correct species. 

How you can join in on the Browse Gardens project

The Browse Gardens project is currently only operating within Gordon and the surrounding local region. If you would like to take part in this initiative, Heidi recommends reaching out via email: [email protected] or through their Facebook group.

For those not within central-west Victoria, Heidi explains,

“If you’d like to help but can’t grow plants, you can still assist our projects by donating to our Chuffed campaign, . This money will be used to buy the plants to supply the participating Browse Gardens properties.”

One final message from Heidi sums up the project and the importance of your involvement:

“Our wildlife desperately needs a hero to save them, so I say to everyone reading this, why not YOU? Step up and be the hero that our beloved and unique native Aussies are calling for. You won’t regret it.”

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