Wednesday 3 July 2019

‘Significant suffering’: experts call for national plan to save wombats from mange

The incoming environment minister has a clear opportunity to tackle this debilitating disease. Wildlife carers and conservationists want it to be a priority
Mon 17 Jun 2019 19.00 BSTLast modified on Tue 18 Jun 2019 07.07 BST
Last month Grasso wasn’t doing well. The bare-nosed wombat, dubbed Fatso in Italian, was infected with mange. The devastating skin disease caused by parasitic mites had left his skin crusted, bleeding and constantly irritated. His eyes and ears were so affected he could barely see, hear or even smell. The nocturnal animal was out grazing during the day, desperate for nutrients because of his raised metabolic rate but he was gradually wasting away. Untreated, he faced a certain and agonising death.
Volunteer wildlife carer Elena Guarracino, from the Looking after our Kosciuszko orphans mange management group, was alerted to Grasso’s plight in early May. She set off to find him, somewhere on a property at Avonside in New South Wales. He was in such poor condition that euthanising him could have been considered the kindest option. But Guarracino thought he was plump enough to survive for a while, and so, despite her 120km round trip, she treated him four times over the next 25 days.
When she last saw him at the beginning of June, Grasso was much improved. Many of the scabs had dropped off and his fur had regrown. Because his eyes and ears were no longer crusted, he was more alert and trickier to track down but she’s certain he’s on the mend.
Day in, day out, wildlife carers such as Guarracino are fighting the scourge of mange across Australia. Giving up their time, and often their own money, they’ve taken on the burden of caring for these animals because of a lack of action by state and federal governments.

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