At nearly the end of my time at Kangaloola, the volunteers had most of a day off. We were driven to nearby Beechworth, a charming small town that once was part of a massive gold rush. This gave time for the four volunteers at the time to chat, eat, visit, eat some more, and deepen our bonds. I was joined by Annika (from Sweden) and Patrick and Sabrina, siblings from Sweden. I was glad to call them my friends.
I was also deeply blessed to get to know and work with Glenda Elliot, founder and director of Kangaloola, and Emma, a long-term volunteer from Sweden who is Glenda’s right-hand and who worked most closely with the volunteers. Both these women work non-stop, hardly ever slowing down. And yet one afternoon when we were awaiting some much-needed rain, but of them actually sat still for a few moments.
Finally, Kangaloola enjoys tremendous support from Chris Lehman. He coordinates with the Oceans to Earth organization that sends volunteers (like me) to Kangaloola; he also responds to reports of injured or abandoned wildlife.
In addition to the kangaroos and wallabies, Kangaloola also cares for a number of other animals and birds. Let’s start with the wombats. When full-grown, I’m not sure I’d want to meet one in a dark alley. But when little they are among the cuddliest of animals you can imagine. To feed one requires you to rest it on his back on your legs, hold your hand over its head and eyes, and turn its head slight to the side while enjoying a bottle of milk. It is an extraordinary experience, especially when a wombat dozes after and is quite happy to be cradled in your arms. Here’s a photo of me in action:
There were also a number of birds present, mostly ones that had been pets whose owners had grown weary of the noise, the fuss, and the mess. These included Dingles the emu, purchased as a pet. Her toenails were burned off by her owner, presumably to make her a better pet somehow. But this means Dingles can never be released in the bush as she can neither run nor scratch for food. But Dingles is well cared for by the good folks at Kangaloola.
Other birds include a few Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Magpies, King parrots, and Galahs. And the bush is teeming with more birds, especially the Cockatoos, who swarm in when Glenda spreads out oats and crackers to feed the wild kangaroos that gather at the fence every evening for dinner. I also saw a few black Choughs, notable for their crimson eyes.
These animals and the dedicated care given them are the reasons why “I cannot stay here even one night” turned into two weeks of staying, feeding, caring, mucking out, and doing any number of other tasks (ask me some time about cleaning carpets with a rake!). These animals, too often neglected, abused, and slaughtered, are worthy of care and preservation. It is not easy work, but it is rewarding. And for 14 days I was privileged to share in this ministry to some of God’s precious creations.
Sadly, not all stories with these animals end well. One of the men who work with Kangaloola brought in a young koala who had been hit by a car. Despite great effort — and a long trip for emergency surgery — Mopsy still died. Likewise, below is a photo of a kangaroo that ran into a fence and was paralyzed — either by physical or other trauma. Again, despite care, the animal had to be euthanized. Not all stories end sadly. Chris Lehman (who works with and supports Kangaloola) found a turtle that had been run over by a car which cracked the animal’s shell. Despite the alarming nature of the injury, the turtle survived. As have so many hundreds and even thousands of animals because of this special place.
I just completed two weeks at Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter. I would have posted sooner but didn’t have internet availability up to the task of sharing multiple photos. So, I’m going to be making a few posts over the next few days to catch up. Today my photos focus on the wallabies and kangaroos.
Kangaloola does some extraordinary work on behalf of about 50 kangaroos, at least 4 wallabies (which are quite similar to the kangaroos); about a dozen wombats; several birds (including Dingles the emu); and Twisty the koala. Located in the Stanley Forest, the facility was launched and has been run for twenty-five years by Glenda Elliot, a woman of deep passion and endless energy. I’ll have more to say about Glenda later.
The facilities are rustic, to say the least. All water comes from cisterns fed only by rain water, meaning that every effort is made to conserve this precious resource, including limiting showers to once every three days. All electricity is solar-generated and is likewise limited. In fact, the sleeping facility (a pair of converted and connected trailers) for the volunteers lacked both water and electricity. The toilet was near but separate. It too, lacked, electricity and could be quite cold as the nighttime temps dropped sometimes into the low to mid-forties. Midnight “potty trots” (as my family has been known to call such nocturnal visits to the loo) required both a flashlight and a willingness to briefly endure frigid conditions both in the air and in, uh, all bathroom surfaces (if you take my meaning).
So, it was a bit like camping (though I had a comfy bed and warm comforter). A bit primitive but certainly endurable. And yet my first thought on seeing Kangaloola was, “I cannot stay here even one night.” Why? Well, the place didn’t seem exactly hygienic. To give just two examples: I saw many dusty cobwebs, including on the one exposed light bulb in the kitchen/eating area. There was also the unique aroma of kangaroo pee and poo in the lounge, the living room which hosted three kangaroos. And trust me, one does not housebreak a kangaroo!
Yet I stayed, and I’m glad I did. Why? Well, I’ll save that for a future post.