Worldwide care for wombats

Viktoria at Trowunna

Worldwide care for wombats

JULY 2015 | Joanne Eisemann

THE ATTRACTIONS are boundless at Trowunna Wildlife Park, not least of all the wombats that bring carers from near and far.
Set on 65 acres near Mole Creek, Trowunna, meaning ‘heart-shaped island home’, was established in 1979 as a centre for conservation and education.
Dedicated Chudleigh woman, Annette Stiboy, who predominantly helps raise its orphan wombats, says, “I have anything from four to six wombats at a time. (And) depending on how many and who needs heat, sometimes I give up my bed with the electric blanket.”
Usually their mothers have been killed on the road. Once brought to the park, they are under Annette’s care for up to 14 months.
After which, they are often released into the park to roam freely within its perimeter fence, safe from meeting the same fate as their mothers.
Annette has raised 30 wombats over the past eight years and says she has “been fortunate enough that every one (she has) cared for has been able to pull through so far.”
From slightly further afield is helper twenty year old Viktoría Hilmisdóttir, of Reykjavik, Iceland. She met park proprietor Androo Kelly while he was in Iceland last year, where he told her about the park and invited her to visit.
Viktoría has always loved animals, especially the native variety. Apart from the Arctic Fox, Iceland has very few so she decided to take up Androo’s offer as soon as she could, as it would be “quite a different world.”
Viktoria is staying at the park for a total of 4 months, primarily to care for wombats and is keen to return to possibly study them formally.
“I’m learning a lot about animals, especially wombats and devils, and would like to learn more,” she shares.
The climate is also a life lesson with temperature differences being a challenge for her; “It’s a lot warmer here. When I got here in February, it was way too hot (at) 23C. When I left Iceland, it was -16C during the day,” she explains.

Yoko Tamura, a zookeeper for Satsukiyama Zoo in Ikeda, which is Launceston’s sister city in Japan, is spending her annual holiday of 10 days volunteering at Trowunna.

The park had partnered with her zoo to assist in the first successful breeding of wombats outside Australia in 1991 and Yoko has made several trips to Trowunna to learn more about the care of wombats since.

“I was here two years ago (to see) how to take care of wombats. (And I had) a lot of great experiences here, so I just want (the) same thing (this present trip),” she explains. “I just love wombats. I just love Australia. I just love Trowunna. I just love Tasmania.”

But there is a deeper reason for Yoko’s visit; she is keen to effect change in Japanese zoo culture as “in Japan there are many zoos not like Trowunna, not like (an) Australian zoo. Some Japanese zoos are really good, with really good keepers. (But) most zoos are still ‘classic’ zoos and (are) no good for animals.”

Yet her love for wildlife has led her to work with them in Japan, with the sad determination to keep wondering what she should do to make things better for them in her country’s zoos.

This is not easy as “Japanese culture is very different (from that in a) western country.” The people of Japan “must respect (their) elders (and Yoko’s) boss does not like (her) having (a) different opinion.” Even then she “wants to try to make change in (her) zoo.”

More information about Trowunna Wildlife Park can be found at http://trowunna.

 Mike Moores