A wild life: park rangers rescue roos and reptiles

20 February 2024

A roo on the hop in Carlton. A blue-tongue lizard basking in a laneway. Ducklings in distress. Our park rangers have seen it all and know just what to do. So – before you step in – give the experts a call.

Our park rangers do important work – helping visitors, keeping our parks safe and protecting the City of Melbourne’s urban ecosystems through a range of programs.

The team members have diverse experience in fields including conservation, environmental science, outdoor education, and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

Three park rangers with an educational trailer full of taxidermy animals
Look out for the rangers with their nature trailer in a park near you

It’s just as well the rangers are multi-skilled, because they often have some wild encounters. Like tailing a lost young kangaroo that was reported to be hopping up Lygon Street, as ranger Isaac Dodd explains.

“I was driving the ranger ute, snaking my way up through Carlton following reports of the roo,” Isaac said.

“He’d ended up in an apartment block backyard, highly distressed, cornered in by a resident’s dogs, trying to dig under a pool fence. I was first on the scene.”

Ranger Isaac helped remove the dogs to calm the kangaroo down, and called in reinforcements from Vets for Compassion, Wildlife Victoria, Victoria Police and other agencies. Meanwhile, residents helped hold up a roo net.

The vet team arrived and swiftly darted the kangaroo, sedating him for an in-field assessment, while another local helped by acting as a makeshift stand for an IV bag.

A person kneeling beside a kangaroo on a stretcher
Isaac with the sedated kangaroo

“It was a real team effort, with so many people and agencies working together. Thankfully the vets found the kangaroo was in great health, just overheating from the stress,” Isaac said.

“Once he’d cooled down, he was released to join up with a mob of roos out at Plenty Gorge. A volunteer patiently stayed with him throughout a three-hour nap, then after groggy wake-up he hopped away to join his new family.

“It was a perfect outcome, even if it left him with a nasty hangover.”

A person lying in the grass with a sleepy kangaroo
The kangaroo waking up at Plenty Gorge

Wild animals that are sick, injured, displaced or orphaned may need our help, but Isaac encourages you to think carefully and get an expert’s advice before you capture or move a creature.

When a bird strikes a window, for example, it may just be concussed, simply needing to be left in dark, quiet spot for up to an hour to bounce back on its own.

Plus, many native Australian birds – like lorikeets and magpies – fledge on the ground, so they might look like they’re in distress. But removing them from their parents’ sight could be the wrong choice.

“Some birds fledge on the ground – after leaving the nest they can spend a few weeks unable to fly, building their strength and learning ‘how to bird’ while their parents protect and feed them from overhead,” Isaac said.

“Often these young fledglings can be hard to differentiate from their parents.”

Recently, a well-intentioned cafe owner saw a rainbow lorikeet unable to fly, so assumed it was injured. They put the bird in a box and the rangers attended the call, finding a very feisty and perfectly health fledgling.

A fledgling lorikeet in a cardboard box
The lorikeet fledgling

“We learned that while the bird was being contained, two other lorries (his parents) were swooping the well-intentioned kidnapper. Although the cafe owner was trying to do the right thing, it could’ve accidentally resulted in the bird being orphaned,” Isaac said.

“Luckily, when we returned to the site where the fledgling was found, both parents were still overhead. Soon after we released the young one, the parents swooped down to greet and feed him. I’m happy we could get him back to living his best lorikeet life.”

Escaped pets can also cause a fuss in the middle of the city, like when Isaac received a report of a blue-tongued lizard in one of our iconic laneways.

A blue-tongue lizard in a pink rescue carrier
This blue-tongue was a long way from home

“Although blue-tongues are native to Melbourne, this one had the colours of a Queenslander and was precariously basking in a busy CBD laneway,” Isaac said.

“He was very comfortable being handled, indicating he was an escaped or released pet. We contacted Reptiles Victoria and the team ensured he went to a special rehab and rehoming program.”

Our rangers’ other adventures include fishing a group of ducklings out of a deep drain with a long pool net and caring for a concussed sacred kingfisher before releasing the bird at Ron Barassi Park in Docklands.

Four ducklings snuggling in a person's hand
These orphaned Australian wood ducklings were rescued, looked after by a licensed wildlife carer until they were old enough to be independent, then released at Royal Park
A sacred kingfisher in a blue animal carrier
This sacred kingfisher was rescued due to concussion, cared for and released at Ron Barassi Park. Watch the kingfisher getting released on our City of Melbourne Facebook page.

How to care for local wildlife

Call an expert before taking action

If you spot an animal in trouble, never take this responsibility on your own. Report it to Wildlife Victoria or call their 24-hour hotline on (03) 8400 7300. They’ll call in our park rangers to help if needed.

Understand natural behaviours

Get to know local species to recognise natural behaviours, like birds that fledge on the ground.

Check pouches for joeys

Remember that when you see a dead marsupial, there could be an orphaned baby on board.

Don’t feed wildlife

Human food isn’t meant for animals. For example, ducks can’t digest bread – it causes severe illness. Animals who are fed can also become dependent and forget how to find their own food.

Keep your cats indoors

Cats are by far the biggest killers of local wildlife.

Leave water out for wildlife when it’s hot

Not all creatures can balance on the rim of a bowl, so add a rock for smaller creatures like lizards to drink from, and sticks so they can easily climb out.

Grow a wildlife garden

From native plants to bee hotels, there are lots of ways to make your home more wildlife-friendly and foster new habitat, even if you just have a balcony with pot plants. Get top tips from a Gardens for Wildlife volunteer.

Use wildlife-safe fruit netting

If you’re netting fruit trees, use a fine mesh that won’t let wildlife get tangled up. Learn more from Animal Welfare Victoria.

Reduce, reduce and recycle

Waste has a major impact on our environment and biodiversity. Learn more about Waste and recycling in the City of Melbourne.

Two people walking along a dirt track in a bushy park
A bush track in Royal Park

Nature walk in Royal Walk

Did you know that Parkville is home to our city’s biggest open space? Spanning 169 hectares, Royal Park is a sanctuary for flora and fauna, including ancient river red gums, the picturesque Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands and abundant wildlife.

Walk, cycle, birdwatch, explore the nature playground, play team sports or tee off on the golf course. Then stay tuned for the Draft Royal Park Master Plan later this year. Developed with the community, the plan will outline our vision for the future of this special place.

Learn more about green spaces in your neighbourhood in our Guide to parks and gardens in Melbourne.

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