Members of the Western Ringtail Action Group (WRAG) identified a need in the community for better training and care of Western Ringtail Possums. 51 wildlife rehabilitators from six different rehabilitation groups across the South West joined Dr. Richard Lucas from Busselton Vet Hospital and Dr. Felicity Bradshaw for First Aid for Possums, a training course designed specifically for wildlife rehabilitators caring for injured or sick possums.
Organised by GeoCatch, project officer Nicole Lincoln was impressed with the level of interest from the animal rehabilitation community. “We had a great turnout from Geo Bay Wildlife Rescue Inc, FAWNA, Possums R Us, Dunsborough & Busselton Wildlife Care, Bridgetown Wildlife Rescue, and FAWNA Mandurah. The training ensured that all groups have access to the same current first aid procedures, information, and knowledge,” said Nicole.
Lorraine Duffy from South West NRM discussed the importance of a central reporting database for injured ringtails in care. Pia Courtis and Mel Rowley from DBCA were on hand to detail rehabilitator licensing requirements and the importance of releasing critically endangered Western Ringtail Possums to safe environments after they have been rehabilitated.
Local Vets Dr. Bradshaw and Dr. Lucas emphasised that successful reintegration into the wild after care is the primary goal for rehabilitators. “This training will contribute to successful welfare and rehabilitation outcomes for Western Ringtail Possums by increasing knowledge amongst the rehab community,” said Dr. Bradshaw.
“Possums that have come into human care may have experienced acute and chronic psychological and pathological stress through pain, fear, injury or disease. For example, if ambient temperatures are over 38 degrees for 3 or more days, possums can become dehydrated. They can be found weeks or months after the event with weight loss and renal failure,” said Dr Bradshaw.
The course was specifically designed to address real-life scenarios, with content covering possum welfare, emergency management and triage, burns, broken bones, pain management, bloating, gut biome, bandaging, and fluid administration.
If you find an injured possum or other native wildlife, call the Wildcare Helpline 9474 9055. They will advise if the injured animal needs to be taken to a vet or wildlife carer. Injured wildlife should be kept in a safe, dark and warm place until they can be handed over to a wildlife carer. Contain the animal securely so that it does not injure itself further or injure you – use a towel or similar to pick it up and place it in a secure, well-ventilated box in a quiet, dark place. Do not feed the animal or give it water unless you have been advised to do so.
First Aid for Possums was funded using the proceeds from the sale of Western Ringtail Possum soft toys at Busselton and Margaret River Visitor Centres, with community members and visitors purchasing over 650 toy possums in the past 3 years. These sales are part of an ongoing regional partnership between the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association and the Western Ringtail Action Group, with proceeds invested into possum conservation projects, as determined by WRAG. The soft toys are still available to purchase from the Busselton and Margaret River Visitor Centres, with $10 from every sale going to possum conservation projects.