by Liz McNeil


On a cold Sunday morning, we received a call from a wildlife group, about a small wombat that was lying on his back in a paddock, some children were counting wombat holes and saw this wombat, thinking it was dead, they approached it and saw it was breathing, still and listless.

We phoned a rescuer nearby, Sharon, to go and rescue the wombat as she only lived 5 minutes away. The children stayed with the wombat until she arrived.

Sharon phoned me to say she had the wombat - he was listless, quite and lethargic , and that it was about 4 kilograms. The property owners had seen the wombat out during the day a few weeks ago and hanging around a dead one on the road about 3 weeks ago.

Sharon assessed that the wombat was in very poor condition: bones protruding and with a "crinkly" nose - a sure sign of dehydration. She thought it was a girl, as that area was flat, but on closer inspection the wombat was a boy - his testes had shrunk due to extreme dehydration.

We arranged to meet her and take him into care at our shelter. I had only ever cared for orphaned wombats previously, never an ill one.

When we received the wombat into care we noticed lots of ticks and heaps of lice and a broken claw. The wombat could barely open his eyes. I offered him lectade in a bottle, which he drank and as he was drinking another carer and my husband removed some of the ticks. He did not seem to care at all, he just lay there. It took us weeks to remove the ticks and lice as we did it a little at a time, so not to stress him.

I settled him in a pouch, inside a hanging pouch, in an inside small enclosure where it was quite. I did not know a lot about caring for unwell joey's, but I was going to read a bout the basics. The bare-nosed wombat guide by Linda Dennis, proved invaluable, the unwell joey chapter, and also the chapter on caring for wild wombats, came in handy for his recovery.

I phoned Linda a few times about getting his nutrition up and general care for him. It was so helpful to have written information as well as a reassuring voice of experience on the phone.

So every hour I checked on the wombat, he just lay there, comfortable but tired and listless. I stayed up all night with him. That night I wasn't even sure if he would make it.

I offered him milk in a bottle, he growled and grunted and grinded his teeth, so I put the milk in a bowl, and put him back in his pouch and sat where he could not see me and waited, about an hour later, he started to get out of his pouch and he drank all the milk, and began eating grass.

In the morning when I went to clean his enclosure, he growled and flicked me with his bum. I almost cried, he was recovering already!

After this we decided to name him Shazbut. 'Shaz" after Sharon, his rescuer and 'but' because he loved to flick us with it. There were times too when he would stomp his feet or run at me, so I would just leave him to it.

I had a very hands off approach with him in the coming weeks, the less I interfered the better he seemed to get. After two weeks, he had settled, he didn't growl as much anymore and was comfortable coming out to eat when I was there and on his own terms he would demand a scratch on the bottom or neck, we sort of worked out this general respect for one another.

A month on, Shazbut was bright eyed and glossy - his weight was 6.1 kilograms.

A happy ending for a beautiful boy.