had spent hours in fire ground searches since March 2009, rescuing
sick, starving wombats from areas in Victoria. At first most
of the wombats were seemingly okay, and we were only really
rescuing wombats being hit by cars or directly burnt from the
fires. We were doing food drops and this seemed adequate, until
July of this year, we started seeing tired, lethargic, skinny
wombats out during the day from 12 noon onwards, trying to pull
up the 2mm of grass, that had grown back, or dig at burnt tree
roots. My husband and I and a small team of wildlife volunteers,
that had completed all the necessary training, bought in around
20 wombats and transported them to good carers, many died from
their ordeal or had to be euthanized. They were all fairly easy
rescues, which for a wombat, tells you something is wrong. ….
I met Babushka……
and another rescuer were driving along food dropping, and from
a distance, I spotted her, I had become pretty good at that.
She was pulling up grass from the roadside, as in the forest
area it was all burnt and the fire had been the most intense
in this area. I could see her prominent, square bum plate and
her spine as we walked in for a closer look. I put my thumbs
up, that mean's the wombat needed to come in. I walked in front
of her and the other rescuer walked behind her, she looked at
both of us, as if deciding which way would be safer, she chose
me! I got my blanket ready and slipped over, right in front
of her, which made her go for cover under two burnt logs. I
quickly got up and put the blanket all the way over her. All
was going well, until I called the other rescuer to help, as
I didn't have the best of holds on her. From this moment we
got to know Babushka. She growled fiercely, it wasn't a normal
wombat growl, it sounded like 100 tigers and under the blanket,
she was stomping her front leg, like a bull does before it charges.
I had never encountered any wombat rescue like it. Most are
too tired and run down, that they "sink" when captured…not this
arrived at the carers, and Babushka was all settled and calm.
I warned the carer that she appeared feisty and to take care.
The carer assessed her as being severely underweight and anemic,
due to poor diet, and needing to remain in care for quite a
few weeks. We took her to a wombat enclosure, and the carer
with many years experience, just put her hands in and gently
placed Babushka in the enclosure. She did nothing! No growl,
no stomping! She went straight over to the food bowl and ate
and ate. That was beautiful to watch, made us see why the work
we do for these animals, is so worth doing. We all got a bit
teary and I wondered if she was feisty after all…….
few days later, I phoned the carer to find out how Babushka
was settling in. I was told she was one feisty, cranky girl.
Any volunteer that wasn't confident she would charge at, she
would growl, if she heard any noise or anyone came in the enclosure.
One volunteer refused to go in there. I had another wombat I
was dropping off to the carer a few weeks later, and Babushka,
heard my voice, she came out of the enclosure and growled, did
her bull stomp thing and shook her heard fiercely at me. That
told me she remembered me!
carer had resorted to anyone that went in to Babushka, must
be aimed with a poo scoop, to place in front of them, to hold
Babushka back. She was eating well and gaining weight.
weeks later I got a call that she was ready for release, and
given her crankiness, it would be too risky to keep her in care
for any longer. On the way there my hubby and I were planning,
how we would capture her from the enclosure, reducing her stress
as much as we could and I mentioned how far away, I would be
standing upon her release!
4pm we arrived, to find Babushka, looking healthy and eating
in her enclosure, she wasn't the prettiest wombie I've ever
seen, she had war scars and torn ears and was the boss. So,
we put our plan into action and with lots of growls and snorts
we transported her to the release site. We got everything set
up, then moved slowly away, within 30 seconds, she came out,
she turned looked at my hubby, and I, with what we thought looked
like sadness in her eyes! She sniffed at the food and her bedding
and began exploring again, stopping to eat every now and then……….I
sung the Babushka goodbye song, by Kate Bush and wished her
are all grateful for the experience Babushka gave us, no one
got hurt or bitten, and she was saved….one less victim of the
devastating Victorian bushfires.