Guidelines for animal and bird rescue
13 week old ringtail possum

One of our members, Mrs. Bev Langley, runs Minton Farm Native Animal and Bird Refuge at Cherry Gardens. She has written guidelines for speeding the recovery of rescued animals and birds, from which much of the following is taken.

An excellent source of information which deals exclusively with raising possums is Barbara Smith's book "Caring for Possums", which is published by Kangaroo Press. It deals very thoroughly with all the aspects of raising Brushtail and Ringtail Possums.

The first priority
Your first priority with rescued animals and birds is to warm them to 30 or 32 degrees centigrade as soon as possible. To do this, you can use a hot water bottle, electric heat pad, electric foot warmer or a desk lamp. Don't feed them for at least one hour and leave them in a dark, quiet and warm place to recover from shock. A tight fitting cloth pouch is ideal for marsupials.

For animals, there are a various replacement milks available from vets and pharmacies. These include Digestelact, Di-Vetelact, Biolac, and the locally produced Wombaroo.

In an emergency situation UHT reduced lactose milk can be used. Bev has had great success using evaporated milk diluted one and a quarter times, with a small quantity of Pentavite multivitamins added.

The quantity of milk and frequency which you feed young possums varies depending upon their age. Unfurred possums under 100 grams generally have a poor survival rate and need to be fed often - about 6 times a day, with between 2 and three ml per feed. Good temperature management is essential in this early stage.

Once possums are furred, they have a much better chance of survival. They need to be fed every three hours, but as they grow larger, this can be cut down to five feeds and solid foods such as banana, grapes and thinly sliced apple can be offered.

Each of the different milk formulations have exact details of the amount of food to feed for a given weight of animal. Measure out the quantity of milk required, with some allowance for spillage, into a medicine glass and float it in a cup of hot water to warm it up. Use a syringe or eye dropper to feed, taking care not to spill milk on the fur. The fur is inclined to fall out over time if any spilt milk isn't wiped off.

Once the animals become juveniles, they should be offered a wide variety of native foods such as eucalyptus leaves, flowering wattles and grevillea flowers.

Only handle animals at feeding time during the first week to mimimise their stress and allow them to settle down to your routine. Try to avoid waking them for "show and tell" to your friends, and always hold animals in a pouch so that they feel secure.

After feeding, you will need to stimulate the animal to urinate and defecate by gently ticking their bottom with the corner of a damp tissue. Some possums need to be toileted before or in the middle of a feed.

Initially offer possums small pieces of apple, banana, grapes or rolled oats in their pouch at night and always provide fresh shallow drinking water. Ringtails (the ones with white tails) need native plants and will also eat fruit and vegetables. Brushtail (larger, darker, and having furrier tails) are more omnivorous and eat just about anything as they grow older, including dry dog food.

Rescued Birds
As with possums, always keep young birds in the dark with something to keep them warm for at least an hour before offering a drink of water.

Most baby birds can be fed Farex baby cereal mixed with warm water, with a pinch of glucodin for energy. Wombaroo make a nectar mix to give nectiverous birds like lorikeets, wattle birds and honey eaters. Meat eaters like magpies, miners and ravens need a high calcium diet, so tinned dog food is suitable with chick crumbles added, or grated cheese and boiled egg. Wombaroo have an insectivore mix available also.

If you are having difficulties or you believe that the animal or bird may be injured, it's best to get in touch with your local vat as quickly as possible. But please contact the surgery first for a convenient consultation time.

Bev can be contacted by either phoning 8270 1169 or faxing 8270 6546.

There may be people who can help with advice who are closer to you. The following organisations may be able to assist:

The Bird Care and Conservation Society, c/- 120 Wakefield St., Adelaide. Rescuing and caring for sick, injured and orphaned birds in conjunction with the RSPCA and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Marsupial Society of South Australia, GPO Box 2462, Adelaide 5001 (08) 258 9999.

RSPCA (South Australia) Inc., 158 Currie Street, Adelaide 5001 (08) 231-6931

  Twelve week old Ringtail possums  

These are twelve week old Ringtail Possums in their pouch.
Twins are a common occurrence in Ringtails.

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