Animal kingdom’s best friend

Emily AceSouth Western Times

In a regular house on Hales Street in Carey Park, Bunbury Wildlife Rescue carer Doreen Jones is doing extraordinary things.

In this house alone Doreen has hand-reared 241 kangaroos and she has between 55 and 60 rescue animals come through her door each month to be nursed back to health.

The menagerie of critters this week includes possums, bobtails and a huge variety of birds, as well as her two faithful dogs Breeze and Pip.

To Doreen, caring for these animals is her “life’s work” and she has been active in the role for 33 years in Bunbury.

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However, her love for animals began much earlier in her life.

“I have always had a thing about animals,” Doreen said.

“I was the same when I lived in England, I always had creatures – my father was used to it.

“I used to do the paper round and would come home with a baby bird.”

Doreen said the biggest shock was when she brought home a baby badger she had found stranded on a motorway.

“I was about 15 then and my dad said ‘you can’t keep it here Doreen, not a badger in the backyard when you already have hedgehogs down in my shed, guinea pigs in the other shed, a rabbit hopping about and your dog going mad’,” she laughed.

Heeding her father’s advice, Doreen took the badger along to the Whipsnade Zoo which led to a volunteering opportunity.

“In my time at Whipsnade, I actually caught a giraffe baby as it was born and learnt all about penguins, which has allowed me to look after them here too.”

Doreen moved to Bunbury in 1984 and noticed an ad in the paper looking for wildlife carers.

“I said to my old man, ‘can we see what that is about?’ so we did and ended up coming back with a possum as well as loads of cages and equipment,” she said.

“I started doing it and was the only one in Bunbury at the time, but the word got around and it’s been non-stop ever since.”

Doreen was called out to rescue an animal from what was then the Bunbury Bird Park, which then resulted in her volunteering for the park so she could learn more about bird care.

Doreen volunteered at the Bird Park for 19 years, remaining when it changed hands and became a wildlife park.

In her lifetime, Doreen has handled “nearly every creature you could think of” including dingoes, wallabies and poisonous snakes.

“I have hand-reared little Tasmanian devil babies, I’ve had a wombat here, a koala and have had very wide experience – it’s magic.”

Although it sounded like a dream vocation, Doreen said it came with some heartbreak.

“Some come in very tiny and it breaks your heart when they do pass away,” she said.

“You do your best for the animals, but sometimes they just curl their toes up and pass away – you never know when they come in how long they may have been on the ground or what the accident was.

“It’s bittersweet, but I would never give it up.”

Doreen’s biggest hurdle is the cost of looking after the animals on a pension and she always appreciates the donation of equipment and money.

“There are some lovely people out there who give me donations and that is what I thrive on,” she said.

“I started a group which now has eight members and we fundraise by going to schools.

“We have to do something because it is getting more and more expensive.”

If her house wasn’t full enough with all the animals running about, Doreen is also blessed with a number a grandchildren who love to help too.

Despite the hard work involved, Doreen said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s my life, it will always be my life and I am fortunate.”

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