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Mapleton WILVOS provide a safe haven

Mar 7, 2019 | Features, Hinterland Life

HT’s Victoria McGuin recently heard about Rachel and Philip Aspinall who, as members of WILVOS (Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc.), are regularly nursing and rehabilitating rescued wildlife on the Range. A list of their daily feeding schedule is enough to make your eyes boggle, and they look after everything from tawny frogmouths to squirrel gliders to wallabies. It was time for a visit!

By Victoria McGuin

Arriving at Mapleton Springs B&B, I was greeted by sweeping views into the Echidna Creek Reserve and up towards Flaxton. The land also has a slice of history with remnants of the old tramway running through the property.   

The B&B itself is certainly inviting, with a heated, infinity edge pool, cinema room, therapy sauna and heated spa, communal lounge with open fire and, separate from the main house, three ensuite bedrooms. I was ready to book a weekend escape on the spot!

However, the most impressive thing about this place is the people who run it. Rachel and Phil Aspinall moved to the area two years ago to start their B&B business and, alongside this, rescue local wildlife. (They are also both active members of the Kureelpa Rural Fire Brigade and Rachel is a member of Nambour SES.)

Rachel explained, “My teaching contract ended and I remembered a friend who worked for WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.) in Sydney. I wondered if there was something similar here, and after some research I found WILVOS.”

Operating for over 25 years, WILVOS now has approximately 290 members who volunteer their time to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife to the local native fauna. There is also a dedicated hotline which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. (07 5441 6200)

“When we joined WILVOS, we attended a range of courses full of useful advice about the animals and there is also a lot of support from a large network of experienced volunteers, local vets, the RSPCA and Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.”

Billy, the squirrel glider, weighing in at 25 grams

The animals come from various areas, some have fallen from trees, some hit by vehicles, others attacked by larger animals, and many hurt by barbed wire.

“I see ‘Land for Wildlife’ signs on properties surrounded by barbed wire. Even cattle farmers have other options available, but most of these properties don’t even have livestock that they need to contain.  

“Such needless suffering for the wildlife, when all it takes is the owners to remove this barbaric and unnecessary fencing. Seeing an animal hurt or dying due to a barbed wire injury is horrific.”

It’s feeding time, so Rachel heads to the kitchen to prepare the bottles. First up is Crystal, a tiny red-necked wallaby rescued from Crystal Waters, whose little paws wave as she drinks.  

Ginger is next, a wide-eyed ringtail possum from Mapleton, then Dax, a brushtail possum, followed by Gillie, a squirrel glider who was found malnourished and dehydrated in Hervey Bay.

Finally, Billy, a tiny squirrel glider found at the bottom of a telegraph pole in Peregian Beach, is brought over, cosily wrapped in layers to keep him safe and snug.

“Billy hit 25 grams today, so we’re super excited about that. He has just opened his eyes in the last day. I feed him from a 1ml syringe, and he just licks a drop off.”

All of the animals melt your heart, but I fall in love with Myrtle, a swamp wallaby who bounds up to the door, hoping to come in and say hello. (There are two Eastern Grey kangaroos, Snowy and Monty, hopping about nearby.)

“A man rang the hotline to say there was a dead wallaby on the road in Buderim and that there was definitely movement in the pouch – he had to leave but left a witches hat from his Ute to show where she was. We found the baby, a pinkie, in there.

“She was only 400 grams, so we took her to the Woombye vet to get her assessed. I asked Charlotte to name the joey. She came up with Myrtle explaining that Woombye means black myrtle.”

The couple tend to get more kangaroos and wallabies than some other volunteers, as they have an enclosure. “The Department for the Environment’s code of conduct dictates the minimum enclosure sizes and fencing regulations which limits suitability for many carers.”

I heard another rescue story about Dax, a beautiful brushtail with large trusting eyes, who you just want to cuddle.

“A couple found a dead brushtail and thought there was a joey in the pouch, so Rosemary Dax, who’s 83 and been a volunteer with WILVOS for a long time went and picked up the body, but she said ‘I’m not comfortable with getting a baby out the pouch’.

“Rosemary is an amazing lady, she’s still driving around and taking calls on the hotline and she’s also very, very knowledgeable about birds. So, I drove down and the dead possum was in her laundry. In the pouch I found a little pinkie, we named her Dax, and now she’s much bigger and looks so healthy.”

Rachel and Phil receive a small subsidy from WILVOS, but mainly pay for the formula and medication themselves. “The biggest expense is petrol; we may drive to Flaxton and then down to Australia Zoo. There’s a lot of driving involved.”

I asked about whether they find it difficult to take a break with all the animals to feed? “I remember once I had to go to a doctor’s appointment in Brisbane,” said Rachel, “and we had six animals in the car, a flask with warm water for feeds, tissues, all sorts.

“Phil had to wait in the car in the shade somewhere while I went in. But we managed it! If we have to go away for longer, there are other volunteers who kindly take over for us for a while.”

These two are clearly devoted to the wildlife, but they have a large concern.

“Our B&B is quite new, and we really need to build up our business. If we can’t make it viable, I will have to go back to teaching and we won’t be able to look after all the animals.”

I could see the disappointment in Rachel’s face – caring for these animals is a huge part of her and Phil’s life.

I, for one, will be encouraging friends to visit Mapleton Springs B&B, so these two can keep on saving the animals who need them.

To find our more about WILVOS or Mapleton Springs B&B, visit wilvos.org.au or mapletonsprings.com.au, both are also on Facebook. Video footage available on HT’s Instagram page.

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