by Marian


Surgery photos are courtesy of Caseys Beach Vet Clinic,
Beach Rd, Batehaven NSW

The glider is being sedated before surgery

















You can see the rip in the patagium (gliding membrane)

















The Yellow Belllied Glider not long before release


One morning I got a call from a man who told me he had a possum that his dogs had found entangled on a barbed wire fence. Barbed fences are considered a curse by many a wildlife enthusiast as many animals such as birds and marsupials can become injured from being hooked up on the barbs - and many of these have to be euthanased as the injuries sustained are too severe. The gentleman said he was just renting the property and would never have barbed wire fences.

The man had already removed the possum from the fence which made it a little easier for me, and he had even gently removed some of the barbed wire out of her tail. He had the possum in a cardboard box on a soft towel, nice and quiet until I arrived.

When I got there I took a look into the box and there was a Yellow Bellied Glider looking up at me.

I put the glider into my carry cage and into a larger pouch as I wasn’t sure of her injuries. I had a hot water bottle in the cage also as I wanted to get her all warmed up.

I left the callers property and stopped down the road to phone the nearest vet (Casey’s Beach Vet Clinic at Batehaven) to see if I could call in on my way past so they could check her out.

When I arrived Melissa, my friendly vet, had a look and said she would have to gas the glider to have a proper look and to cut out the barbed wire still embedded into the patagium (gliding membrane) and tail so I left the glider there and went back home.

When Melissa phoned back a couple of hours later Melissa and my other friendly vet Beth had removed all of the barbed wire out, but had to cut into the patagium and there was approximately 17cms which was unattached to the gliders body.

Melissa and Beth took some photos of her while she was under the gas. They are great photos and you can see from one photo how much her patagium had to be cut.

Melissa said she wont be releasable.

I took her home to recover from the surgery. I placed her in a heat box so she couldn’t move around too much and keep her warm. A week later I took her back to the vet for a check up.

Both Melissa and Beth were pleased with the gliders recovery. Beth suggested she contact a vet at Taronga Zoo and email some photos through to them, so we could get an idea of whether the patagium would mend. I left Melissa and Beth to their research and took the glider back home.

I also asked around to a few other possum carers to get their thoughts on the gliders injuries. One possum lady Sonya Stanvic suggested the patagium would knit back to her body as she has had gliders in care with similar injuries to mine.

I had renewed hope for my glider!

Melissa phoned to tell me the vet at the zoo had said it may not mend but that they would be willing to take her into their breeding program. I was relieved to have a second option if the glider was finally found to be unreleasable.

Another carer I know, Mel from Sydney, suggested I call Terri Bellamy and take the Yellow Bellied Glider to her as Terri is a qualified Wildlife Vet. I made an appointment the next day to see Terri as I was heading up to Sydney.

When Terri examined the glider, the patagium had almost knitted back to the gliders body except for approximately 3cms. Terri advised me to give her 3-4 weeks in the aviary and release her as she if she was able to glide again.

I thanked Mel for her positive advice - I didn't like the thought that this glider may have ended up in captivity for the rest of her life.

After time the glider was moved into my largest aviary for rehabilitation and exercise. I filled half the aviary with fresh branches of an assortment of gums, Black Wattle, Casuarinas, Banksias and some supplemented foods. Occasionally I found some trees with sap on them, and this being a favourite morsel for gliders, I'd scrap off the sap and put in the aviary. A delectable treat for my glider!

She was actually a real fussy eater! I have had Yellow Bellied Gliders in short term care before and they would love the slurry mix of supplementary food I made up as well as their natural offerings. This Yellow Bellied Glider didn’t go much on the slurry, she went for the natural foods only.

At night I would go down to the aviary as I could hear her moving about. As soon as I got to the aviary door she would climb back into her box! So I started sneaking down and standing outside the aviary for a while hoping she wouldn’t hear me, but that didn’t work either. This glider didn't like performing!

I could hear her at night gliding around the aviary though, so I knew she was exercising adequately. One reason I filled only half the aviary up with fresh branches with only a small amount up the other end, was so she would have enough room to glide and get up the other end of the aviary. Being in care for around 8 weeks she needed to get her muscle tone working again before release.

Happily to say she was released back to the same area she was originally found. Not directly on the caller’s property as he was worried about his dogs and the barbed wire fencing.

It was such a delight to know she was able to be released. It amazes me that the patagium knitted back to her body so perfectly. Like Sonya had said to me a few weeks earlier - it was just fascinating!

I'd like to send out a big thank you to all those who helped me with this glider, particularly to Melissa and Beth for operating so quickly, which ultimately put her onto the road of recovery.

Back to Stories
Click here for species information on the Yellow Bellied Glider