On the nights Jill Smith doesn’t check the back roads for dead - or dying - kangaroos, wombats and wallabies with surviving joeys in their pouches, the experienced wildlife aid carer lies in bed fretting for the ones she can’t save.
Compounding her despair is the fact that due to the drought an increasing number of sick or injured orphaned native animals are arriving on her doorstep and just like the region’s natural waterways the funds needed to care for them are drying up.
“Since the mining downturn the donations have stopped coming in and the money is running out,” her husband, Brad, says.
“They are usually banged up when they come to us which means vet bills, medicines, and ointments.”
And, of course, there is the inevitable ongoing expense of purchasing the correct feeding formula.
For the past 13 years the compassionate couple has dedicated their lives to rescuing, rehabilitating, and when they can, releasing native fauna back into the wild after their daughter found a dead kangaroo on the side of the road with a live joey in her pouch.
At present they are officially the macropod co-ordinators but Jill still cares for the very young wombats, or pinky’s.
“This is when they have no hair,” she explains.
“At this stage they need six feeds a day so I have to get up at 3am to feed this little one.”
However, you get the feeling this nurturing soul doesn’t mind as she unwraps the tiny bundle swathed in a bright pink cloth to affectionately plant a kiss on its head.
“This is baby Ria,” she says.
From wombats and eastern grey kangaroos to black wallaroos, Ria is one of 31 joeys the couple are currently caring for.
They each have a name and a story, like six-month old eastern grey, Maggie. She was found covered in maggots inside her decaying mother’s pouch. Her mother had been shot.
“It is illegal to shoot a native animal except for dingoes,” a frustrated Brad declares.
And, even the older animals, including Maggie, still need to be fed two bottles a day. But it is not this intense workload that bothers them – they love it.
It is the dire financial situation the non-profit organisation is facing as without an injection of funding they will have to cut back.
“Worse still other carers may stop as many are pensioners”, says Jill.
Wildlife Aid Upper Hunter is a not for profit network of dedicated unpaid volunteers (aged 18 to 80) from a diverse range of backgrounds and skills and to help them continue their important work a gofundme page has been set up, visit https://www.gofundme.com/4sn3f3c