Saving Millie the Sooty Owl

14 May 2012

Millie the Sooty Owl is getting some advanced veterinary treatment from the team at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Healesville Sanctuary. She is only the second Sooty Owl's brought to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre in over a decade.



"Millie came to us in early April after being found in a paddock in Toolangi," Dr Rupert Baker, Senior Veterinarian, Healesville Sanctuary said. "She was very thin and, although she was able to stand, was unable to fly. Blood tests were normal and there are no signs of infection. There appeared to be no signs of trauma."



Although Millie has put on weight (from 860g to 1.02kg), she has shown little sign of improvement.

Dr Rupert Baker decided staff needed to rule out any neurological disease or other infection that might be delaying Millie's recovery.



The team took Millie for an MRI scan at the Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre in Glen Waverley. Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre provides in-kind specialist veterinary services to Healesville Sanctuary. The Centre's specialists provide the most up-to-date information on diagnosis and management of animal issues, as well as a full range of veterinary services.



Sooty Owls are listed as vulnerable in Victoria and there are less than 1000 breeding pairs in the state.

The Sooty Owl is a large secretive bird that lives in pockets of rainforest and wet eucalypt gullies in Eastern Victoria. The Victorian bushfires wiped out substantial areas of habitat and has resulted in declines of the already vulnerable species. For those owls who survived the fires, they're still at risk because damage to habitat means there is nowhere for them to live.

Sooty Owls like Millie nest in large old trees with hollows and preys on other forest species, including those which are also dependant on tree hollows. With thousands of old trees and extensive ground habitats of prey species impacted by the fires, any surviving owls continue to be impacted through a massive reduction in prey species.

Photos: Ian Currie, Sunday Herald Sun.