Zoo Nurses are Wildlife Champions
Friday 27th July 2012
Libby and Gemma releasing Little Penguins
Libby and Gemma releasing Little Penguins

I recently saw this paragraph about vet nurses doing the rounds, and it certainly made me stop and think about a bunch of very talented Wildlife Veterinary Nurses that work at Taronga Zoo.

"Your veterinary nurse is also an anaesthetist, surgical assistant, minor surgeon, fracture clinic nurse, lab technician, radiographer, infection control officer, administrator, counsellor, nutritionist, dietician, paramedic, teacher, microbiologist, and more. And no matter what they say, they DO take their work home with them, and are always thinking about patients in their care".

Working in the Zoo’s Media Department, I am privileged to see the amazing care lavished on wild animals at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital.  This hospital doesn’t just look after the animals that call Taronga home, but also about 1000 wild patients which arrive in all manner of conditions from Blue-tongue Lizards accidently torn by whipper-snippers, endangered turtles that have swallowed fish hooks, tiny orphaned Wombat joeys whose mothers have been killed by cars and even young seals which have been attacked by sharks.

I’ve seen the nurses come in to the Zoos at all hours of the night to prepare a heat box or bedding for an animal that is about to be brought to our hospital. It’s the nurses who are the first into an animal den after it’s received its anaesthetic to monitor its condition, sometimes when they’re still roaring or yelling so loud it would make any man’s heart race a million miles an hour.

I’ve watched the nurses sleep over at the Zoo to helps keepers and vets with a struggling newborn animal.  I’ve seen them cry when one of their loved patients has passed away, but more often than not I seen their resilience as they focus on the next animal that needs their TLC, despite how crappy they’re feeling.  I’ve watched them hunt down the freshest eucalypt for a particularly fussy patient, a rare Greater Glider which rejected all other food offerings.  I’ve seen them give up their social lives to become surrogate mothers to orphaned or injured wombats and kangaroo joeys, possums and bandicoots, literally getting up at all hours of the night to feed and tend to their every need for months. 

 The best days are when the nurses get to release one of their patients back to the wild. Setting a Little Penguin on the sand and watching it dash back into the sea is why they do their jobs and why it makes it so worthwhile. Usually there are tears then too, but they’re of a happy kind.

They do all this without having the luxury of having their animal patients tell them what’s wrong. They know the anatomies of a tiny 12g Feathertail Glider and a massive 200 kg Silverback Gorilla and everything in between.

So Libby, Belle, Tammy, Amy, Gemma, Liz, Debby, and Liz Mac, I am sure if some of our animal friends could talk, they’d say ‘thank you’ for being the ultimate wildlife veterinary nurses.

Danielle McGill, Taronga Zoo Media Relations Officer