Australia’s 20,000+ wildlife volunteers rescue and rehabilitate native animals. They respond to hundreds of phone calls and enquiries every day, mostly from members of the public, seeking help and advice about injured, orphaned, nuisance or unusual wildlife sightings. The Black Summer bushfires significantly increased the profile of wildlife rescue services and led to more financial support than the sector has ever received before, though historically the sector has been underfunded and risks being so again.
Wildlife rescue service callers were surveyed and interviewed about their knowledge and views of wildlife rescue.
Users of wildlife rescue services appear to be interested in native animals, highly supportive of wildlife rescue services and willing to contribute to wildlife rescue with time and money. There were notable gaps in their knowledge about wildlife rescue services, such as how much government support occurs and whether wildlife carers are volunteers or employed.
Wildlife rescue services are highly valued by the people that use them. Perhaps paradoxically these users have low awareness of how these services are organised or funded.
The findings of this study suggest that wildlife rescue volunteers could access donations, new members and education opportunities by tapping in to public interest and concern for wildlife.