Carer’s animal kingdom

October 27, 2017

Kylee Donkers cares for a near-blind baby koala.

Kyler Donkers and her new lamb friend.

Baby kangaroos keep warm in their pouches.

Kangaroos in the kitchen

Kylee's record is feeding nine kangaroos simultaneously.

Kyler Donkers nurses an injured kingfisher.

Kangaroos in the kitchen, birds in the bathroom and dingoes in the driveway are an everyday sight for Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter owner Kylee Donkers.

For the past six years Mrs Donkers’ home has been packed to the rafters with injured animals needing around-the-clock feeding and care.

‘‘Sleep? Who needs sleep?’’ she said.

Coming into the warmer months Mrs Donkers expects to see even more animals delivered to her front door.

She is warning locals not to pick up fledgling birds, which are often mistaken for abandoned chicks and ‘‘kidnapped’’ by well-meaning locals.

During spring fledgling birds leave the nest and crash-land to the ground, where they spend several weeks walking around learning hunting and foraging skills from their parents.

‘‘It’s part of their learning and growing process and their mum and dad will look after them,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

‘‘We get lots of baby birds kidnapped because people bring them to us thinking they need help.

‘‘That’s why we’re trying to get the word out and tell people to give us a call and we’ll assess whether the animal needs help.’’

Mrs Donkers has started a wildlife awareness and education program to teach schoolchildren and community groups about local wildlife.

‘‘We have a lot of endangered and threatened species around the area, which people don’t know about,’’ she said.

The region is home to a rare ecosystem of squirrel gliders, broad-shelled turtles, kingfishers, tawny frogmouths and dollar birds.

‘‘People don’t know how to protect them and help them because they don’t know they exist in the area,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

The response to the program has been enthusiastic according to Mrs Donkers, who has managed to recruit a team of nearly 20 volunteers.

‘‘They’re a huge help. It means I can spend more time feeding and treating the animals,’’ she said.

Her feeding routine involves going into the bush to gather gum leaves for the koalas, grass for the joeys and bottlebrush for the possums.

During the day she feeds the baby birds every 30 minutes and her husband holds the house record for bottle-feeding nine kangaroos at once.

On top of her hectic feeding schedule, Mrs Donkers goes jogging with her two dingoes, attends wildlife conferences and is on call 24 hours a day.

‘‘Our parents couldn’t understand why we would spend all of our time and money looking after the animals,’’ she said.

‘‘A lot of people can’t understand, but we love what we do and we feel privileged to be able to do it.’’

●If you find an injured animal or are interested in volunteering at the shelter, phone Kylee Donkers on 0417 560 910.

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