There is no mistaking Kerry and Dave Bell’s home on Molloy Island, located in Western Australia. Bird aviaries, rehabilitation tents, and a gang of four kangaroos surround the front of the home, almost telling me as I approach, “Yeah mate, this is the place.”
Kerry and Dave are native wildlife rehabilitators--also known as carers--for Augusta Wildlife Care, formed in 2021.
“Dave and I specialize in birds, although we will look after anything, including kangaroos and ringtail possums, although we have people who specialize in those two. When ringtail possums come in, they have to be reported to DBCA (Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions) within 24 hours, because they are a critically endangered species,” says Kerry. Other carers take care of the possums and kangaroos, but Kerry and Dave get to them first on the island and nurse them so they can survive the move to the next rehabilitator. “I started doing this in 1999,” says Kerry. “Then Dave jumped on board as well.”
Photo of Kerry & Dave Bell with injured wattlebird
Kerry and Dave once converted one of their bathrooms into a rehabilitation spot for a pair of phascogales (also known as wambengers), a small marsupial. “We set them up with all sorts of bits and branches so they could run, jump, play and get strong. We had them from tiny babies until release,” says Kerry.
“We’ve had a few bobtail lizards. They are just a treasure to look after, so beautiful,” says Kerry. “We looked after a penguin once. He was very sick and skinny. We cared for him, and eventually he got fatter and fatter. We took him down to a lady near Albany who put him through, what we call, ‘penguin finishing school.’”
“Here he comes for a little feed!” remarks Dave, as the one of their former bird patients swoops in to grab a snack, while another lands on Dave’s shoulder and tucks himself into Dave’s beard. “Oh, that one’s a naughty boy,” snickers Kerry. Dave raised the bird from a chick. “He’s been out all night. They sleep out in the wild then come back for a little feed,” says Dave. “It’s what is called a soft release,” adds Kerry. “Over time, the birds will come in less and less. Then over mating season, they will pair up and become fully independent.”
“We had one we hadn’t seen for about two years,” says Dave. “She flew in, hopping with one leg held up and injured. I picked her up and recognized her as a wattlebird we had saved a few years back. She flew in here looking for help. We took her to the vet, cared for her. She was here for months and months and then took off.”
“Sea birds are challenging. They are a specialized field. They have to be fed the right fish and make sure they are water-proofed before they go back to sea,” says Kerry. “When you let something like them go, it’s just such a great feeling inside.”