Wildlife treatment and care resources for vets

02 Dec 2021

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has developed a range of wildlife treatment resources including Initial Treatment and Care Guidelines and Codes of Practice for wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians and veterinary nurses dealing with injured, sick or orphaned wildlife.   

The NPWS is responsible for regulating the volunteer wildlife rehabilitation sector in NSW, including the development of standards of care for rescued wildlife. With over 90,000 injured or sick native animals rescued each year in NSW, veterinarians and veterinary professional staff play a crucial role in the assessment and humane treatment of these animals. 

Improving animal welfare outcomes for injured or sick wildlife 

“These resources will improve animal welfare outcomes for injured, sick and orphaned animals and increase the likelihood of their rehabilitation and release back to the wild. It is important for these standards to be applied across the rehab sector and veterinary sector, giving greater certainty about the quality of care provided to native wildlife,” explained Dr Aditi Sriram, Wildlife Rehabilitation Project Officer with the NSW NPWS. 

“Particularly relevant to vets and vet nurses triaging wildlife are the standards and criteria for euthanasia specific to species, provided in the Codes of Practice. For example, the Possum and Glider Code states that possums with more than 30% of their tail missing and gliders with permanent damage to the leading edge of the gliding membrane must be euthanased. This information is crucial for vets triaging and making recommendations to members of the public and wildlife rehabilitators on outcomes for individual animals.” 

Collaborative effort developing the resources 

The NPWS collaborated with veterinarians, ecologists and experienced volunteers from the wildlife rehabilitation sector to develop the resources. The majority of the treatment and care guidelines were developed by veterinarians, and the Codes of Practice - which set minimum standards for rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife in NSW - were developed by the NPWS. 

It is hoped that the Codes of Practice will assist vets with decision-making and triage of injured or sick wildlife. The resources incorporate useful reference for vets when recommending treatment or care for wildlife and when communicating with wildlife rehabilitators.   

The Codes of Practice also includes standards for housing, assessment of wildlife, release considerations and standards to minimise risks to human health and safety when dealing with wildlife. 

“The initial treatment and care guidelines include practical information on restraint, physical examination, euthanasia and first aid for wildlife first presenting for care. For example, for rescued possums and gliders, the guidelines include techniques to appropriately restrain and handle a ringtail possum - one of the more common species rescued each year - to facilitate a physical examination.”  

“Further to this, there is information on initial treatment and stabilisation, including fluids, intensive care housing and nutrition. There is also information on common rescue encounters, such as what are common reasons ringtail possums present for care and what signs of injury to look out for,” said Dr Sriram. 

Resources available for free download 

The Codes of Practice and Initial Treatment and Care Guidelines is available for download here