When a wildlife carer received a call to rescue a kangaroo from the roof of a suburban NSW home, she thought it had to be a prank.
In almost 30 years of operation, WIRES say they’ve never seen anything like it, leading them to double check the details before sending out a volunteer to help.
Wildlife rescuer Amy Koutsomihalis, 44, had just got into bed when she received a call on Sunday night, saying “kangaroo on a rooftop”.
“There were real concerns that maybe it was a stuffed toy or something,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“(WIRES) said it was a genuine call, but I was kind of expecting some giggling, intoxicated people to answer the phone when I called the member of public.
“Instead I found a concerned resident who convinced me with a photograph that there was indeed a kangaroo on her roof.”
At 11pm that night, Ms Koutsomihalis got in her car and began the 30 minute drive to Glen Alpine, 56km southwest of Sydney.
Animal on roof too big to be a possum
It’s the type of thing homeowner Lesley Midei’s overseas relatives almost expect to happen in Australia, kangaroos hopping down the street, koalas living on street lamps – but not kangaroos on rooftops.
Other than the odd echidna or possum, Ms Midei said she hasn’t seen any marsupials in her area, let alone a large adult macropod.
The Glen Alpine resident was first told there was something “strange” happening just as a birthday celebration at her home was ending.
One of her guests had been walking to his car at around 10:30pm when he saw a large animal resting above the garage.
“He came back into us and said, ‘I thought it was a possum at first but I think you’ve got a wallaby on your roof’,” Ms Midei explained.
“We went outside and there he was, huddled against the warm bricks above the garage.
“He was very dark in colour, and I saw his tail, and it was huge, so I said ‘I think that’s a kangaroo and not a wallaby’.”
Startled by human presence, the “kangaroo” hopped up higher, bounding over the crest and onto the other side of the house.
Now the drop to the ground was even further, and he was facing a busy road.
“From inside with our lights off, I could see the silhouette of his head through the window,” she said.
“I could see it so detailed, even his long eyelashes. It was amazing.”
‘Wanting to do the best thing for the roo’: Rescue begins
On arrival, Ms Koutsomihalis identified the animal as a wallaroo, a marsupial almost the size of a kangaroo, but stocky like a wallaby.
He was panting heavily, and like in all macropods, stress can lead to a fatal condition called myopathy.
Wallaroos do not have to be physically injured to be killed by the ailment, but over a period of days and weeks, it will disintegrate muscle fibres and lead to complete paralysis.
“I was just wanting to do the best thing for the roo. If you are too intense with the rescue, you can cause irreparable heart damage,” Ms Koutsomihalis said.
“So it was a huge concern and we decided not to involve the fire brigade as he had already been under a lot of stress.”
With the roof highly slippery due to night time condensation, getting up to gently corral him onto the ground was not an option.
As there is no protocol for getting wallaroos down from high places, Ms Koutsomihalis adapted a technique used to bring koalas down from trees.
Using items in her car, she fashioned together a makeshift flagpole made from an extendable bird net and pillow cases.
“Coaxing him down was done very slowly, very calmly, and members of public guided me because I could not see the wallaroo from where I was,” Ms Koutsomihalis said.
“As I did that he did gently move back over to the other side of the roof, where there was a shorter drop.”
The wallaroo was now facing a wildlife corridor that led to nearby bushland, giving everyone hope.
Ms Midei and the birthday party guests used their cars to create a barricade to prevent him hopping the other way, towards heavy traffic on a nearby road.
At 1:30am, Ms Koutsomihalis determined the animal was in a safe enough position for her to leave and get some rest before work later that day.
All through the night, those left inside the house struggled to sleep, waking to check on the wallaroo and ensure he was still okay.
Wallaroo finds his way home
Ms Midei called Ms Koutsomihalis the next day, with thrilling news – the wallaroo was able to safely jump back to ground later the next day.
Rescuers following up on his wellbeing found evidence of flattened grass where he’d rested in the green corridor and droppings leading back to bushland.
Not all wildlife encounters in the suburbs have a happy ending, and the stories behind the rescues are often heartbreaking.
Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, a WIRES spokesperson said that calls to help other native animals in need are expected to grow in the coming years.
“WIRES has seen an increasing number of native animals needing rescue from urban areas as development continues to encroach on their natural habitat,” they said.
With Australians preferring to live in fertile areas across the continent’s eastern seaboard, people are moving in on the preferred habitat of many native animals.
Australian Conservation Foundation’s Jess Abrahams told Yahoo News Australia that these locations have an abundance water, sunshine as access to the coast.
He says it is logical that when the green spaces inside our urban areas are bulldozed for housing, native animals will flood into established areas like where people live.
“We keep building our cities and towns in many of the areas that are most important for our native wildlife,” he said.
“Often these urban areas are written off as not being valuable habitat and developments are waived through and bushland is knocked down and paved over so we can have urban sprawl.
“The cost is that the habitat of our wildlife is literally disappearing before our eyes and we’re getting increased conflict between native animals and people, dogs and cars.”
‘Catastrophe that’s unfolding before our very eyes’
Mr Abrahams said that recent research surprisingly points towards urban areas being key habitat for many of threatened species, finding that 46 per cent of vulnerable plants, animals were found to be living in cities and towns.
Mr Abrahams is now focussing on a review of federal environmental laws which were introduced aimed to protect threatened species.
ACF argue that the EPBC has not been effective in protecting Australia’s wildlife, noting that an area larger than the size of Tasmania (7.7 million hectares) has been cleared in Australia since the act was introduced 20 years ago.
“We’re in the midst of an extinction crisis in Australia, we’ve lost more mammal species than any other nation, that number is 28,” Mr Abrahams said.
“We’re the fourth worst in the world when it comes to extinction of biodiversity more generally, and we have nearly 2,000 plants, animals and ecosystems on our threatened species list, and our environment laws which are 20 years old and under review as we speak are failing to stem the problem.
“We’ve had three extinctions in just the last decade.”
“This is not a problem of the historic past, this is a catastrophe that’s unfolding before our very eyes.”
The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered wildlife carer in NSW.
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