Code of Practice for Injured, Sickand Orphaned Wombats

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Contents1Preface . v2Introduction . 13Interpretations and definitions . 14Case assessment. 25Rescue . 26Transport. 57Euthanasia . to euthanase . 6How to euthanase . 7Disposal of carcasses and animal waste . 78Care procedures . 88.1 Monitoring . 88.2 Controlling disease transmission between animals . 99Mange . 1010 Husbandry. 1110.1 Food and water . 1110.2 Hygiene . 1210.3 General care . 1311 Housing . 1311.1 General requirements . 1311.2 Intensive care housing . 1411.3 Intermediate care housing . 1411.4 Pre-release housing . 1512 Suitability for release . 1513 Release considerations . 1613.1 Timing of release. 1613.2 Release site selection . 1613.3 Release techniques. 1714 Training . 1815 Record keeping . 1916 References. 20iii

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats1PrefaceThe Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats (the Code) is designed foreveryone involved in the activity of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wombats. It hasbeen developed to protect the welfare of wombats in care and to contribute to theconservation of wild wombat populations. The Code is designed to be read in conjunctionwith the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Code of Practice for Injured, Sick andOrphaned Protected Fauna (General Code).Compliance with the Code does not remove the need to abide by the requirements of theBiodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act), Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979,Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966, Veterinary Practice Act 2003, Local Government Act1993, Firearms Act 1996, or any other relevant laws and regulations.The Code contains both standards, which are enforceable, and guidelines, which describerecommended approaches for the care of wombats that are incapable of fending forthemselves in their natural habitat. Compliance with the standards is a condition of licencesto rehabilitate and release sick, injured and orphaned protected animals issued under the BCAct. Failure to comply with a licence condition is an offence under section 2.14 (4) of thisAct.The Code has been prepared by the NSW Wildlife Council in cooperation with membergroups and observers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the WombatProtection Society, NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue, and Education Service (WIRES),veterinary specialists at Taronga Zoo and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.The Code is neither a complete manual on animal husbandry, nor a static document andmust be implemented by a person who has been trained in accordance with the enclosedstandards. It will be periodically reviewed to take into account new knowledge in animalphysiology and behaviour, technological advances, developments in standards of animalwelfare and changing community attitudes and expectations about the humane treatment ofwombats. OEH will consult with licence holders regarding potential changes to the Code andgive written notice when the Code is superseded.While in the past wildlife groups have focused on raising orphan wombats, the complexity ofthreats facing wombats now requires a more holistic, proactive approach to care practices.Wombats are nocturnal, burrowing, herbivorous marsupials. Two of the three species ofwombat occur in New South Wales: The bare nosed or common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is classed as a protectedanimal in New South Wales and is abundant in some localities, but due to a variety ofthreats the population is contracting eastward in New South Wales.The Endangered southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) was thought to beextinct in New South Wales until recently. They are present only in very small numbersin south-western New South Wales.The northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) is presumed extinct in NewSouth Wales.Wombat populations are threatened by habitat loss, competition with domestic and invasivegrazing species, collisions with cars, human–wombat conflict and disease.v

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats2IntroductionThis Code sets the standards for the care and housing of wombats that are incapable offending for themselves in their natural habitat and applies to the welfare of wombatscontrolled under a licence issued by OEH to rehabilitate, sick, injured and orphanedprotected animals.The Code comprises both ‘standards’, which are enforceable, and ‘guidelines’ whichdescribe recommended approaches to the care of wombats.33.1Interpretations and definitionsInterpretationsObjectivesObjectives are the intended outcome(s) for each section of the Code.StandardsStandards describe the mandatory actions needed to achieve acceptable animal welfarelevels and comply with this Code. These are the minimum requirements that must be metunder law and are identified in the Code by the heading ‘Standards’ and use of the word‘must’.GuidelinesGuidelines describe the best practice approach based on consideration of scientificinformation and accumulated experience. They also reflect society’s values and expectationsregarding the care of animals. A guideline will deliver a higher level of care than minimumstandards, except where the standard is best practice.Guidelines will be particularly appropriate where it is desirable to promote or encouragebetter care for animals than is provided by the minimum standards. Guidelines are alsoappropriate where it is difficult to determine an assessable standard. Guidelines areidentified in the Code by the heading ‘Guidelines’ and use of the word ‘should’.NotesWhere appropriate, notes describe practical procedures to achieve the minimum standardsand guidelines. They may also refer to relevant legislation.3.2DefinitionsIn this Code:Wildlife rehabilitation means the temporary care of injured, sick or orphaned protectedanimal with the aim of successfully releasing it back into its natural habitat.Wildlife rehabilitation group means an incorporated group that is licensed by OEH torehabilitate and release protected animals.Park means a national park, historic site, state conservation area, regional park, naturereserve, karst conservation reserve or Aboriginal area, or any land acquired by the Ministerunder Part 11 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).Protected animal means any amphibian, reptile, bird or mammal (except dingoes) listed orreferred to in Schedule 5 of the BC Act that is native to Australia or that periodically or1

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombatsoccasionally migrates to Australia (including their eggs and young). Wombats are protectedanimals in NSW.Experienced wildlife rehabilitator means someone who has an extensive knowledge ofcurrent rehabilitation techniques gained through training courses and many years ofsuccessfully caring for native animals.Wildlife rehabilitator means someone who is either authorised by a wildlife rehabilitationgroup or zoological park or is individually licensed by OEH to rehabilitate and releaseprotected animals.4Case assessmentObjectiveTo assess a wombat to determine the type of intervention required. The primary objective ofrehabilitation is the successful reintegration of the wombat into a suitable wild population andall decisions are to be informed by this goal. This will mean that some individual animalsmay benefit from rehabilitation while for others, the most humane outcome will beeuthanasia.4.1Standards4.1.1The decision tree in Figure 1 must be followed when determining how to respond toa wombat encounter:4.1.2Rescuers must arrange for the wombat to be assessed by a veterinarian orexperienced wildlife rehabilitator within 24 hours of rescue to ensure accuratediagnosis and prompt treatment or euthanasia. If this is not possible due to theremoteness of the location, expert advice must be sought.Notes An animal creating a nuisance for the public generally refers to an animal that hasentered a person’s house and/or represents a human health risk. It does not include ananimal defending its territory or exhibiting other normal behaviour. OEH has policies in place for managing negative interactions with protected faunaspecies, including wombats that can impact the community, that advocate the use ofnon-lethal measures as the initial and first management response to nuisance animals.5RescueObjectiveTo conduct wombat rescues so as to minimise further stress and injury to the animal.5.1Standards5.1.1Prior to a rescue attempt, the rescuer must assess and minimise the risks to thewombat, members of the public and themself from environmental hazards and fromcapture. This can be achieved by careful evaluation of the environment, use ofappropriate equipment and development of a rescue plan.5.1.2Rescuers must employ the correct rescue equipment for the condition and locationof the wombat and be trained in its use.5.1.3The following methods must not be used to capture a wombat: noosing with a rope that tightens2

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats a trap, unless closely monitored use of smoke or flooding of a burrow.Is the animal sick, injured, likely tohave been injured or an orphan?YesNoIs death imminent or highly likelyregardless of the care available?YesIs the animal creating a nuisance forthe public or in a dangerous location?NoArrange for theanimal to behumanelyeuthanased(Section 7.2).YesRescue the animal andarrange for a vet orexperienced wildliferehabilitator to assess it(Section 5).NoAdvise people toavoid the animaland/or contacttheir local NPWSArea OfficeDo notintervene.Is recovery impossible or the likelihood of successful reintegration into the wildpopulation remote or the risk to the health of wild animals unacceptable (Section 7.1)?YesArrange for the animal tobe humanely euthanasedor apply for it to be held inpermanent care followinga careful assessment ofits suitability (see the OEHRehabilitation of ProtectedFauna Policy).NoYesDo the Standards on release site selectionpreclude the animal’s release (Section 13.2)?NoYesIs there a OEH policy or recognised practiceprohibiting the release of this species?NoArrange for the animal tobe placed into temporarycare.YesIs there an appropriately trained rehabilitator,sufficient resources and proper facilitiesavailable to care for the animal?NoArrange for the animal to be humanelyeuthanased (Section 7.2).Figure 1Decision tree for course of action when a wombat is encountered3

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats5.1.4If the wombat is an injured female with signs of having a pouch young (e.g.elongated teat, stretched pouch), the surrounding area should be searched for theyoung and monitored regularly (e.g. daily for at least several days) if notimmediately found.5.1.5Rescuers must not move a healthy, independent wombat unless it is at immediaterisk of injury (e.g. on a road). Relocations need to move the wombat a safe distancefrom the hazard (e.g. 20 m). Such relocations need to be planned carefully andundertaken by experienced wombat rehabilitators.5.1.6If multiple wombats need to be rescued (e.g. on a fire ground), the container eachwombat is placed in must be labelled and a record taken of the capture location.5.1.7Wombats in a trap must be moved to a suitable transport container as soon aspractically possible.5.1.8Rescue of joeys (pouched young): If removing a live joey from a dead adult, do not pull the joey off the teat or fromthe pouch by a limb. If it is necessary to cut the teat or pouch of the dead adult,the teat should be cut close to the mammary gland and care must be taken toavoid harm to the joey. Removing a joey from a dead mother is complex and must be done by, or inconsultation with, an experienced wombat rehabilitator. Do not cut the pouch or teat of a live wombat. The joey must be kept warm (see Section 6.1.6) and secured during transport toan experienced wombat rehabilitator. Larger pouch young will require a small, safe transport container.5.2Guidelines5.2.1The rescue of a sub-adult or adult wombat should not be attempted unless at leasttwo trained personnel are involved.5.2.2Rescuers should take steps to protect the wombat from additional stressors, suchas onlookers, loud noises, other animals and extremes of temperature, duringrescue.Notes Covering a wombat’s eyes with a towel, blanket or bag will often assist with calming itdown. A wombat rescue kit should include: a reliable heat source a thermometer a range of pouches a securable transport carrier disposable gloves surgical scissors blankets and towels hand sanitiser. Wombat specific traps should be used.4

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats6TransportObjectiveMinimise stress and injury to a wombat during transport. This section applies to allmovements of the wombat including from the point-of-rescue to a veterinary surgery andbetween rehabilitation facilities and the release site.6.1Standards6.1.1Transport methods and container sizes must be appropriate for the size andcondition of the wombat. For example: An orphaned pouch young requires an artificial pouch that is usually securedwithin a container (e.g. cage, box or basket). Artificial heat (e.g. a hot water bottlefilled with warm tap water or heat pad) for non-furred pouch young will berequired. The heat source should be placed on the outside of the pouch toprevent the animal from coming into direct contact with it. An adult or sub-adult requires a well-ventilated, padded transport container.6.1.2The transport container must be designed and set up to prevent injuries to thewombat.6.1.3The transport container must be designed to prevent the wombat from escaping.6.1.4Transport containers must be constructed from material that can be easily cleanedand disinfected.6.1.5The transport container must be kept at a temperature which is appropriate for thestage of development of the wombat. For example: A range of 5 C to 25 C is appropriate for most sub-adults and adults duringtransport. Wombats with any form of trauma and mange should be assumed to be sufferingshock and in the short term be kept at the upper end of this range.6.1.6Pouches must be kept at a temperature which is appropriate for the stage ofdevelopment of the joey. For example: Furred young should be kept at around 28 C and furless young kept between28 C and 30 C.6.1.7The temperature and condition of the wombat must be constantly monitored duringtransport.6.1.8Transport containers must be ventilated so air can circulate around the wombat.6.1.9Transport containers must minimise light, noise and vibrations and prevent contactwith young children, pets and smoke.6.1.10Wombats must not be transported in the back of an uncovered utility vehicle or in acar boot that is separate from the main cabin. Transport containers must besecured in the vehicle during transport.6.2Guidelines6.2.1A container used for transporting an adult or sub-adult should contain non-slip andabsorbent floor covering to allow the wombat to grip and for the absorption ofwaste.6.2.2The use of medication to facilitate wombat transport should be approved andprescribed by a veterinarian.5

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats6.2.3Adult wombats should not be fed or watered during trips lasting less than a fewhours. Dependent young may require feeding during shorter trips.6.2.4Wombat transport should be the sole purpose of the trip and undertaken in theshortest possible time.6.2.5Wombat transport should be done with consideration of temperature. Extremes oftemperature must be avoided.77.1EuthanasiaWhen to euthanaseObjectiveTo humanely end a wombat’s life in situations where death is imminent, or full recovery isimpossible.7.1.1Standards7.1.1.1 A wombat must be euthanased without exception when: death is imminent or highly likely regardless of the treatment provided, or it is suffering from chronic, un-relievable pain or distress, or its ability to consume food unaided is permanently impaired due to an injured jawor missing/worn/damaged teeth, or an experienced wildlife veterinarian makes that recommendation. A wombat must be euthanased (unless OEH has granted permission to hold it inpermanent care) when: there is no suitable release location, or its ability to reproduce is lost due to an injury, disease or procedure, or its ability to locomote normally is permanently impaired due to a missing orinjured limb, or its ability to sense its environment (i.e. see, hear, smell, taste or feel) ispermanently impaired due to a missing or injured organ (e.g. eye, ear or nose), or its advanced age renders it unable to survive in its natural habitat.Notes The decision to euthanase should not be based on an animal’s weight at rescue. The decision to euthanase should not be based solely on availability of carers within therescue group. The group should liaise with other licensed groups to facilitate care ifnecessary. In certain exceptional circumstances, OEH may grant permission to hold animals inpermanent care or arrange placement with an authorised animal exhibitor licensed bythe NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). See the OEH Rehabilitation ofProtected Fauna Policy (DECCW 2010) for details.6

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats7.2How to euthanaseObjectiveTo induce death with minimal pain and distress to the wombat.7.2.1Standards7.2.1.1 A euthanasia method must be used which produces a rapid loss of consciousnessimmediately followed by death. Death must be confirmed prior to disposal of the carcass. The absence of a heartbeat and the loss of corneal reflexes indicate death has occurred.7.2.2Guidelines7.2.2.1 Wildlife rehabilitators should arrange for a veterinarian to perform euthanasia.Intravenous barbiturate overdose should be used. When a non-veterinarian is required to perform euthanasia, shooting with a rifleshould be employed to ensure minimal pain and suffering. At close range (i.e. 5metres) a .22 calibre rifle can be used as long as the shot is correctly aimed at thebrain of the animal. Soft nose or hollow point ammunition which expands on impactshould be used. The following euthanasia methods should not be used on wombats: suffocation via drowning, strangulation or chest compressionfreezing or burningcarbon dioxide in any formpoisoning with household productsair embolismstunning followed by decapitation and/or destruction of the brainstunning followed by cervical dislocation (less than 0.5 kilograms (kg)).Notes When veterinarian intervention is unavailable a licensed shooter from a licensedrehabilitation group may be called on to euthanase by shooting. Rehabilitators who have a wombat euthanased may find the process stressful. Insituations where grief and trauma are overwhelming, support should be available fromexperienced rehabilitators and external grief counsellors.7.3Disposal of carcasses and animal wasteObjectiveTo dispose of waste so that the risks of disease transmission are minimised.7.3.1Standards7.3.1.1 Carcasses and organic waste suspected of disease contamination or that havebeen exposed to chemicals (e.g. barbiturates) must either be incinerated or buriedat a depth that will prevent scavengers from reaching them.7

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats7.3.2Guidelines7.3.2.1 A deceased wombat may be submitted for necropsy by a wildlife-trainedveterinarian, or under such supervision, if the cause of death is uncertain. The costof this is to be borne by the person requesting the necropsy.Note Local councils have laws regulating the disposal of carcasses and other biologicalwaste.8Care procedures8.1MonitoringObjectiveWhile undergoing rehabilitation, the recovery and eventual release of the wombat mustalways be the principal consideration. The type and frequency of monitoring will vary with thetype of injury or illness and required treatment.8.1.1Standards8.1.1.1 Dependent pouch young wombats 0–600 grams (g) must be monitored every 2–3hours and weighed once per day (see Table 1 for age comparisons). Dependent pouch young wombats 600–1000 g must be monitored every 4 hoursand weighed three times per week. Dependent pouch young wombats 1–2 kg must be monitored after every feed andweighed twice per week. Dependent pouch young wombats 2–5 kg must be monitored after every feed andweighed once per week. Dependent pouch young wombats 5–10 kg must be monitored daily and weighedonce per week. Sub-adult wombats 10–15 kg must be monitored daily and weighed twice permonth. Sub-adult wombats 15–20 kg must be monitored daily and weighed when required.Table 1Approximate wombat weight by age (Vogelnest and Woods 2008)Weight (approximate)AgeCommon wombatSouthern hairy-nosed wombat90 days (3 months)150 grams130 grams120 days (4 months)390 grams290 grams150 days (5 months)800 grams530 grams180 days (6 months)1,430 grams880 grams210 days (7 months)2,250 grams1,350 grams240 days (8 months)3,350 grams2,200 grams270 days (9 months)4,600 grams3,250 grams12–15 months12–19 kilograms8

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats8.1.1.8 Wombats being prepared for release must be monitored every few days todetermine if they are physically and behaviourally ready for release (see Section 12Suitability for release). Rehabilitators must regularly monitor the temperature within enclosures containingthermal support to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained (e.g. blankets,hot water bottles and electric heat mats). Sick and injured wombats must have a management plan developed in consultationwith a wildlife-trained veterinarian. Monitoring and weighing protocols must bedetailed within this plan.8.1.2Guidelines8.1.2.1 On admission a wombat should be checked for: bleeding or woundsbone fractures (use weight bearing assessment and gait assessment)rapid breathing or elevated heart rateerratic eye movement or sunken eyespale or cold gumstemperatureticks/parasitesdischarge from the eyes, nostrils, mouth or cloacaodd smellsjaw alignment/broken teeth. Monitoring a wombat should entail: visually assessing body condition and demeanour checking for signs of injury, disease and parasites assessing hydration by looking at the eyes (sunken eyes can suggestdehydration) and noting the quantity and quality of scats and urine looking for indications of activity (e.g. running, digging) assessing the trend in weight e.g. gain or loss.Note Human contact with wombats should be limited to avoid imprinting (humanisation).8.2Controlling disease transmission between animalsObjectiveTo prevent the spread of diseases among animals undergoing rehabilitation and to minimisethe risk of diseases being introduced into wild populations upon the release of rehabilitatedwombats. Stressed animals are more susceptible to contracting and expressing infectiousdiseases.8.2.1Standards8.2.1.1 Newly arrived wombats must be isolated in separate areas until disease status canbe determined by a veterinarian or experienced wildlife rehabilitator.9

Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Wombats8.2.1.2 Animals suspected or known to be carrying an infectious disease must be keptunder strict quarantine conditions throughout rehabilitation. Signs of disease mayinclude coughing, sneezing, abnormal breath sounds, discharge from the eyes ornose and diarrhoea. Dedicated cleaning equipment must be used for enclosures housing animals with asuspected or confirmed infectious disease. All enclosures, transport containers, cage furniture, food containers and watercontainers must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each occupant. Wildlife undergoing rehabilitation must be prevented from coming into contact withdomestic pets. Wildlife rehabilitators must wash their hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectantbefore and after handling each animal in care. If the death of a wombat is suspected to be the result of a significant diseaseoutbreak, the wildlife rehabilitator must immediately contact their wildliferehabilitation group to ascertain whether tissue samples or a necropsy is required.Notification must also be given to the NPWS wildlife mailbox([email protected]) and DPI Emergency Animal DiseaseHotline (24 hours) (1800 675 888) for immediate assessment of emerging healththreats.8.2.2Guidelines8.2.2.1 When handling multiple animals, rehabilitators should start with the youngest andhealthiest and finish with the oldest and sickest to reduce

While in the past wildlife groups have focused on raising orphan wombats, the complexity of threats facing wombats now requires a more holistic, proactive approach to care practices. Wombats are nocturnal, burrowing, herbivorous marsupials. Two of the three species of wombat occur in New South Wales: The bare nosed or common wombat