A desperate wombat rescuer has pleaded with Aussie drivers to stop if they see a dead animal on the road — because doing so could help save the life of a baby hidden inside its pouch.
Yolandi Vermaak founder of Founder and President Wombat Support & Rescue told Yahoo News Australia they rescue injured babies weekly but sadly not all of them survive their injuries.
The latest rescue was in Burra near the border of New South Wales and the ACT on Wednesday. While the driver didn't stop, another young girl did and her mother called Yolandi for help.
"They found this tiny little boy and rescued him. It was freezing cold and he was badly injured," she said. "Our vet confirmed my suspicions that he had a broken leg and he also had internal injuries."
Yolandi said he was "very lethargic" — unlike most "very active" baby wombats. "He was just lying there, he was pale and there were signs that he was dying. I didn't want to keep him overnight in excruciating pain," she said.
The rescuer and her team made the decision to "end his suffering" and put the joey to sleep. "My heart hurts so much for what he must have endured," she said.
Chances of survival after two hours 'goes down significantly'
Yolandi, who moved to Australia from South Africa, hit out at the driver who didn't stop but said it "happens a lot" — and it's the biggest problem they face.
"It’s the worst part of human behaviour to leave a tiny defenceless baby in the middle of the freezing night in the middle of the road," she said.
Joeys are subject to other threats if left out of the road so getting them to safety is "time-sensitive" Yolandi explained. "If you don't rescue a joey within two hours, your chances of him or her surviving goes down significantly," she said.
While most joeys survive the impact from the car, they won't always "survive the elements".
"Birds know that the little ones are defenceless and so they either pick their eyes out or they just eat them. And then come ants that just will crawl all over mum," she said. "In summer, there will be flies and then obviously there's foxes and cats. So they don't have a lot of time".
What to do if you see a wombat
The first thing is to make that decision to stop, Yolandi said, "because that's probably our biggest problem, is people don't stop"."If they were to stop, it could have saved a life. So making the decision to stop is really the most important thing," she said.
"Then if mum is in the middle of the road, it is a traffic hazard. It's not safe for humans for an animal to be lying in the middle of the road, " she added. "So keep your own safety in mind, but you have to pull mum off the road".
Then she said to check if there's a baby inside its pouch, and if you can get it out, do so. If not, Yolandi said to carefully place the entire mumma wombat in the boot of your car and take it to the nearest vet.
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