Fauna: episode summary
Animals aren’t always given the credit they deserve when it comes to intelligence. But at Zoos Victoria, keepers, vets and animal trainers are harnessing ‘animal smarts’ and training animals to be willing participants in their own healthcare. Gorillas will open wide to have their teeth brushed, gibbons will present their belly for an ultrasound and one chatty long-billed corella happily gets her overgrown beak trimmed with an electric grinder.
Thanks to Dr Sally Sherwen, Sue Jaensch, Kelly Hobbs, Bianca Papadopoulos, Fleur Butcher, Jess MacDonald and Katrina Beattie for your input into this episode. And of course, a special thank you to Fergie the long-billed corella, Malu the Sumatran orangutan, and Li-Lian the White-Cheeked Gibbon for showing off your cleverness.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, Balti by Blue Dot Sessions, Curiosity by Lee Rosevere, and Butterflies 4 by Peter Sandberg.
There’s rarely a dull moment at Zoos Victoria’s AGL Marine Response Unit. Calls to help distressed, entangled or injured wildlife come in from every sandy stretch of the state’s coastline. Seals are the most common patients - and there aren’t always happy endings. Dog bites, eye injuries resulting in blindness and entanglements frequently result in euthanasia. But some of the cases that come in to the unit are gorgeous: like the penguin who was found at St Kilda beach in 2017 with just one flipper.
Zoos Victoria’s AGL Marine Response Unit couldn’t do the vital work it does without its corporate sponsor AGL and the support of the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria and the Victorian Fisheries Authority. The MRU is also grateful for the volunteer rescue services, especially Southern Peninsula Rescue and Apollo Bay Ocean Rescue, which provide the boats and crews that allow MRU staff to get out on the water. The selfless work of wildlife carers must also be highlighted and given thanks. Special thanks to Mark Keenan for giving us so much time. And thanks to Dr Michael Lynch, Dr Sarah Frith, Dr Kate Bodley, Jose Gomes, Kristie Lawrence and James Uren for your input into this episode.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, Lakehouse by Nctrnm, Base Camp by Blue Dot Sessions, One Quiet Conversation by Blue Dot Sessions, Balti by Blue Dot Sessions, Sad Marimba Planet by Lee Rosevere, Curiosity by Lee Rosevere.
The devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires taught Healesville Sanctuary some sobering lessons. Home to some of Australia’s most endangered birds, frogs and mammals, the firestorm which bore down on the bush Sanctuary’s doorstep highlighted Healesville Sanctuary’s vulnerability without a rehearsed emergency evacuation plan. In this episode, you will hear from keepers and vets about what happened on Black Saturday - and how the experience forever changed the way things are done.
Many thanks to Dr Rupert Baker, Gerry Ross, Dr Marissa Parrott and Dr Phillipa Mason for sharing your stories with us. We really appreciate your time and generosity in looking back on such a difficult time.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, ZigZag Heart by Blue Dot Sessions, Taking Precautions by Magnus Ringblom, Subtle Shift 2 by Magnus Ringblom, Puzzle Pieces by Lee Rosevere, Base Camp by Blue Dot Sessions, Our Fingers Cold by Blue Dot Sessions, Colorful Animation 2 by Johannes Bornlöf.
At first, the Faux family thought they’d found a quail in their Bendigo backyard. The bird was tiny - it weighed less than an apple. But its markings were different to a quail and the Fauxs, who know their native birds, quickly realised this bird was something special. But what do you do when something so rare and precious turns up on your backyard? Who do you call?
Thanks to Yvette Pauligk for your input into this episode, and for taking us to visit Wanda. We’re grateful to the Faux family for their time and generosity: Susan Faux, her sons Josh and Rhys Durwood, Ian, Yvonne and Natalie Faux. Big thanks too to Lynne Waller from the Whitehills Wildlife Shelter, for sharing your story with us. And thank you to ecologist Dr David Baker-Gabb for providing the recording of the plains-wanderer call we heard in this episode.
If an unannounced wildlife guest shows up at your place, try not to touch it - some animals can get frightened easily. Or they might already be injured. Put the emergency number for Wildlife Victoria in your contacts: 03 8400 7300. Then if you come across sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, give them a ring.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, Balti by Blue Dot Sessions, Curiosity by Lee Rosevere, Base Camp by Blue Dot Sessions, Puzzle Pieces by Lee Rosevere, Butterflies 4 by Peter Sandberg.
You’d be surprised at how far a zoo will go to look after its VIPs. Take the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot - one of two migratory parrots in the world. These Very Important Parrots board commercial flights to be flown across Bass Strait so they can winter at Werribee Open Range Zoo’s parrot ‘’bed and breakfast’’ before returning to southwest Tasmania for summer. Meanwhile, eastern barred bandicoots have specially-trained guard dogs working night shift to protect them from predators and Leadbeater’s possums enjoy a possum gym designed to keep them fit and active.
Zoos Victoria is one of many organisations that make up the Orange-Bellied Parrot Recovery Team. Other team members include the federal Department of Environment and Energy, the state environment departments from Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, Moonlit Sanctuary, Priam, Adelaide Zoo, BirdLife Australia, the Zoos and Aquarium Association and Friends of the Orange-Bellied Parrot.
Thanks to Paul Eden and Rachel Lowry for your time, and to Dr Michael Magrath for your input and for organising our well-timed visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, ZigZag Heart by Blue Dot Sessions, Base Camp by Blue Dot Sessions, Life Traveller 5 by Johannes Bornlöf, Thannoid by Blue Dot Sessions, Butterflies 4 by Peter Sandberg, Colorful Animation 2 by Johannes Bornlöf.
Zoos Victoria staff travelled to remote Christmas Island in 2009 in search of Australia’s rarest mammal. A critically endangered species of bat, the chocolate brown Christmas Island pipistrelle is seriously tiny - no bigger than your little finger. Only existing on the remote Indian Ocean island, the pipistrelle population had plummeted in the years prior. There was no doubt about it. This was a rescue mission for a species teetering on the brink of extinction. The journey had a profound impact on those Zoos Victoria staff who went - but also on the wider organisation. Things have never been the same since.
Thanks to Dr Jenny Gray and Dr Rupert Baker for being so generous with your time - and to Dr Dan Harley and other Zoos Victoria staff who shared their passion for fighting extinction.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, Puzzle Pieces by Lee Rosevere, Balti by Blue Dot Sessions, Life Traveller 5 by Johannes Bornlöf, One Quiet Conversation by Blue Dot Sessions, Thannoid by Blue Dot Sessions, Our Fingers Cold by Blue Dot Sessions.
When fighting for the survival of the “fairy possum’’, desperate times call for desperate measures. After trying to breed the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum in captivity for five years, Zoos Victoria’s threatened species biologist Dan Harley has not been rewarded. Meanwhile the wild population of around 38 Lowland Leadbeater’s possum living in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve is struggling. But unlike their captive cousins, they are breeding in the forest 45 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. So, with wild population numbers down to 38, Zoos Victoria scientists have decided to roll the dice and trial releasing some of Healesville Sanctuary’s captive possums into the wild in the hopes they will do what they have so far failed to do in captivity - breed.
Special thanks to Dr Dan Harley for your time and generosity in showing us around Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, and to Rachel Lowry for your input into this episode. The Leadbeater’s possum call you heard in this episode was recorded by Zoos Victoria digital producer Rick Hammond - we’re grateful to you for sharing it, Rick.
Bubble and Squeak 5 by Peter Sandberg, Thannoid by Blue Dot Sessions, ZigZag Heart by Blue Dot Sessions, Balti by Blue Dot Sessions, Colorful Animation 2 by Johannes Bornlöf.
Fauna series credits
Research, interviews, scripting, web content: Bridie Smith
Audio recording, scripting, production, mixing: Bec Fary
Host: Annie Last
Videos and photos: Rick Hammond