When sick, injured or orphaned wild animals are taken into care, they should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. To be considered for rehabilitation and release, wild animals must be able to recover and reach a stage where they are well enough to seek food and fend for themselves in the habitat they were removed from. If an animal is suffering from significant pain or distress which cannot be relieved, it should be promptly euthanased.
Not all injured, sick or orphaned wild animals are suitable for rehabilitation and release, and it cannot always be assumed that a released animal will survive in the long-term. Because of this, any decision to release an animal should be made on the basis of a veterinary assessment and the available scientific evidence on the likely success of release. The RSPCA believes release programs should be supervised by government and carried out by registered and experienced carers or a wildlife rescue facility.
There are a number of different factors that affect the likelihood on an animal being successfully released back into the wild. These include:
- whether the release site is geographically close to place the animal was captured
- whether the site is large enough to provide sufficient home range
- whether the site meets the habitat requirements of the species
- whether there any long-term threats to the suitability of the site (ie no planned development)
- whether the site is connected to other areas of suitable habitat
- what risk there is that animals will disperse into unsuitable areas (such as roadways)
- whether the site contains resident populations of the same species or other species (native or introduced) that require similar resources, and if so, are these below carrying capacity
- if the animal is territorial, are there available territories and can aggressive encounters with resident animals be avoided
- whether any resident animals of that species are closely related (ie from the same gene pool)
- what predators are present and in what numbers?
Where rehabilitation and release is unlikely to be successful, the animal should be promptly and humanely euthanased.
There are currently no nationally consistent standards for the treatment of injured or sick wildlife or the way in which decisions on rehabilitation and release are managed. RSPCA Australia supports the development of national standards for the rescue and rehabilitation of native wildlife and the monitoring of released animals to improve our knowledge of the success of release programs.
Need help with injured wildlife?
To find an Australian wildlife rescue volunteer near you, visit the Australian Fauna Care Network at https://www.fauna.org.au