Sticky eyes, mucous throat, lethargy and lack of appetite, gasping for breath…sound familiar?Well thankfully neither mum nor I have flu but the poor old Bobtail lizard, lazing at the bottom of the steps in Mum’s garden and seemingly dozing in the sun, does. Warning bells start to ding when Astro sticks his snout near Bobby’s face and there is not a hiss or flash of blue tongue warning. Even tempting with a strawberry brings but a mere tongue flicker. A day later and he’s moved up two steps and continues to look very unhappy. An hour later tucked up in a towel he is being admitted to Kanyana,a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the Hills.
Established in the late 1960s by June and Lloyd Butcher on Darling Scarp land east of Perth in Western Australia, the property was named for the perennial springs in the area. While working as a Child Health nurse, June started to take in sick and injured wildlife eventually building a small hospital and aviaries. Since those early days with admissions in the tens of animals, Kanyana has now relocated to a former Girl Guide site on a 16 hectare property with a purpose built hospital, isolation building, aviaries and education centre.Now approximately 2000 birds and animals per year are admitted, representing over 150 species.
And so it is on this damp and blustery Monday morning that ‘Bobby Wilson’, patient number 18156 joins the list of Kanyana’s increasing population of bobtails with the flu. It is an upper respiratory tract infection believed to be viral, though relatively little is still known about the cause and while recovery outcome is reasonable when caught early (fingers crossed) the mortality rate of newborns to sick mothers is high.There is an increasing concern for the future of the bobtail population which is not only being dealt a blow by the flu but with increasing numbers being killed on the roads, by dog and cat attacks and the hazards of life in the bush and long grass and the perils of whipper snippers and lawnmowers.
Lindy will look after Bobby W. A volunteer at Kanyana for four years, Lindy is one of a team of 120 carers (all volunteers) without whom the centre would surely not survive. She is now a bobtail expert and when asked why bobtails, she says with a smile “The don’t bite as badly as parrots!”
The flu is highly contagious so BobbyW will be in the isolation area which is currently full with individual vivarium containing bobtails at various stages of recovery. Treatment will take several weeks if not months and during that time will include medication, nebulisers (and what a very clever set up there is to administer this, no masks or standing in a steamy shower for these guys) and hand feeding if necessary. When recovered, the aim will be to release BobbyW back into Mum’s garden where hopefully a long and fluless life awaits. Bobtails mate for life and in a garden which has been wild animal friendly for decades now (inquisitive grandchildren included!) s/he may well have a mate waiting to emerge from hibernation and start the spring ritual.
I’ve asked if I may pop in and pay BobbyW a ‘bedside’ visit every so often (and be a pest and ask lots of questios!) so watch this space.