‘Thumbelina’ nursed back to health
AMONG hundreds of stories of rescue and recovery, it is the journey of this tiny marsupial that captured the hearts of wildlife carers at Inala Nature Tours, on Bruny Island.
The orphaned baby swamp antechinus, also referred to as the little Tasmanian marsupial mouse, was christened Thumbelina by carers after being brought to the centre by a Bruny Island resident who found her lying seriously ill in a paddock.
Inala property owner and wildlife reserve founder Tonia Cochran said Thumbelina was only about 3cm long when she arrived and her size, plus poor condition, provided plenty of challenges.
"For the first three weeks she lived with me 24/7 in a little pouch permanently tucked under my clothing to keep her warm, with three-hourly around-the-clock feeds of a special mixture of marsupial milk, insectivore mix and very finely mushed chicken," Dr Cochran said.
"Her mouth was so small and her nose so pointed I couldn't use conventional marsupial teats, so I would mix the formula in a small glass with sloping sides which enabled her to put her head in an slurp the mixture."
Thumbelina grew in strength and size and was able to transition to a container, free to move about and eat a more natural diet of worms and insects.
"After we released her, she continued to return to feed until she was totally self-sufficient. It was very satisfying knowing that we had a healthy population of small native mammals on the property which included other swamp antechinus, together with dusky antechinus and native rodents," Dr Cochran said.
"She could mix with other members of her own species in a wild environment."
The swamp antechinus belongs to the same family, dasyuridae, as quolls and Tasmanian devils.
Dr Cochran founded Inala, on south Bruny Island in April 1994, as a sanctuary for native wildlife and to provide holiday accommodation and nature-based tours to visitors.
The project now employs about 25 people, including specialist wildlife guides, office staff and a property maintenance team.
Through land purchases, Inala has expanded to 600ha which Dr Cochran hopes will help provide for the long-term protection of animal and plant species native to Bruny Island.
There are resident populations of endangered bird species such as the forty-spotted pardalote and swift parrot.
Orphaned and injured wildlife that have been helped include echidnas, Eastern quolls, long-nosed potoroos, blue-tongued lizards and tiger snakes as well as the more common brush-tailed possums, Bennett's wallabies and Tasmanian pademelons.
"The feeling after battling through sometimes quite dire circumstances to successfully bring an animal back to full health or hand-raise it is indescribable," Dr Cochran said.
"I guess it is a mixture of satisfaction and sense of joy in giving that animal a second chance to live a wild life when it is released.
"That's what keeps us all going and why we all endure sleep deprivation and anguish when thinks aren't going to plan."
In Tasmania, contact the Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Program on 6165 4305 (business hours) or Bonorong Wildlife Rescue on 0447 264 625.