'Could have been prevented': Disturbing images reveal fatal threat to wildlife

Heartbreaking photos shared to social media show a dying native animal found near a pile of trees that had just been felled.

Three days after trees were cut down, a female brushtail possum was found hiding near a shed by locals in Tahmoor, southwest of Sydney, according to a wildlife rescuer.

The marsupial was badly hurt but still clinging to life.

A woman's hand holds the ear of an injured brushtail possum which lies on a peach towel.
A female brushtail possum was found with severe injuries 20 metres from where trees were felled. Source: Inga Schwaiger / WIRES

WIRES carer Inga Schwaiger told Yahoo News Australia that she is called to assist animals found displaced by tree felling several times a year.

“It happens all the time, it’s just an ongoing saga,” she said.

“However, we do get developers calling us if they do find an animal, to get inspectors out to assess the situation first.

“When we get the call out, they still chop the tree down, but at least we’re there to rescue the animals before they die.”

‘Whole neighbourhood was upset’

On Monday, Ms Schwaiger drove to a Tahmoor property, 69km southwest of Sydney, after receiving a call from “upset” neighbours.

The possum was found 20 metres from the felled trees and had blood coming from her ears, scratches to her skin, and significant damage to her pelvis.

Due to the severity of the injuries, which appeared to be internal, the animal had to be euthanised by a vet.

A red dot indicates the location of where the possum was found. It is near a building behind a pile of trees and logs.
A red dot indicates the location of a possum found near the felled trees. Source: Inga Schwaiger / WIRES

“It left me feeling a bit upset as it possibly could have been prevented,” Ms Schwaiger said.

“It was a female possum, so I spent time looking for her babies.

“The whole block was cleared, and when I arrived the whole neighbourhood was upset.”

Ms Schwaiger said that she does not blame tree loppers for displaced wildlife, but would like to see more protections in place to help save native animals impacted by tree removal.

Wollondilly Shire Council was contacted for comment, but did not respond to calls before deadline.

‘Won’t touch a tree that has wildlife’

Most Australian trees provide habitat for one or more species of native bird, mammal, or reptile, with older trees containing hollows playing a particularly important role.

The majority of Australian widelife is highly territorial, and cannot simply just be moved to a new location.

Sydney arborist Craig Young agrees that wildlife injuries are a “regular story” when it comes to his industry, so he always carries a cardboard box with a towel in it, in case he comes across an animal.

During nesting season, Mr Young’s company, Sydney Abor Trees, will not remove anything that has baby animals or birds in it.

Split screen. Two photos of baby lorikeets.
These baby lorikeets were saved by a wildlife rescuer after an arborist called for assistance. Source: Cathie Stubbs / Wildlife Arc

“There are certain companies that have moral issues and won’t touch a tree that has wildlife in it,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“Sometimes when we find trees with possums or sugar gliders we may call WIRES and relocated them.

“Unless you’re going to sit under a tree and watch it for a few nights, it can be hard to know what’s up there.”

Due to financial restraints, ecologists are not routinely called in before trees are felled, leaving decision making on what to do with wildlife up to the whim of the arborist or landholder.

Across Australia, local councils are largely in charge of approving tree removal and setting guidelines for the rehoming displaced wildlife.

Arborist creating hollows to house native species

Looking to help improve habitat, Mr Young has expanded his business, to help create hollows and other nesting areas for animals who are losing their habitat to human expansion.

“Every bird or animal needs a completely different type of hollow, completely different aspect and height within the tree,” he said.

“We’re looking for trees that are in decline, and using arborists to help speed up the process of creating hollows.”

Mr Young encourages anyone thinking of removing a tree on their property to familiarise themselves with the wildlife in their area, in order to ensure wildlife is not displaced or injured.

“We have a list of different species that live within different trees and we put hollows into different aspects of trees, relating to what we’re trying to attract to the tree,” he said.

“We create different hollows for different species.”

People in NSW who come across a sick or injured animal can contact WIRES on 1300 094 737, or their local animal rescue group.

The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered wildlife carer in NSW.

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