Highway One: wildlife carers on the south coast

By Catherine Lawson 7 November 2013
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As Catherine and David head up the east coast, they stop at the wildlife hospital in Nowra.

Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia.

HANDLING AROUND 3000 CALLOUTS every year, the team of volunteers at Nowra’s South Coast Wildlife Rescue are a busy bunch, retrieving and rehabilitating a steady stream of injured and orphaned birds, bats, possums and gliders, echidnas and bandicoots from Kiama to Bateman’s Bay and west to Goulburn.

Vice-president Gerardine Hawkins also operates the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic in her own backyard and on our visit, we meet a pair of juvenile grey-headed flying foxes and a truly intriguing little forest bat.

It’s Australia’s smallest bat, weighing less than 5g and with forearms less than 3cm long, but these tiny nocturnal bats (vespadelus vulturnus) have a huge appetite. 

“This little guy can eat up to 400 mosquitoes per night,” says Gerardine. “That’s why we try to encourage people to put bat boxes up in their backyards and encourage these guys in”.

The tiny bats are remarkably territorial, roosting in buildings and in the hollows of eucalypts in colonies that number around 50.

“About three weeks ago,” Gerardine says, “a local guy pulled the tin off his roof and discovered a nursery colony – 54 bats, 40 of which were babies smaller than the tip of your fingernail.”

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