Anyone who wants to undertake the rescue and/or release of wildlife should must follow advice relating to minimising the risk of COVID-19. Particularly people who may be in a high-risk category.
Can I continue to rescue or release wildlife?
Anyone who has
- tested positive for COVID-19
- has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
is not allowed to rescue or release wildlife.
If you are not in these categories then the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife is, at this time, permitted, provided appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are put in place, including maintaining a distance of four square metres if working indoors.
Wildlife rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators must continue to follow all government directives, including social distancing and staying home unless undertaking activities directly related to the care of wildlife (or other permitted activities).
Carers should also note:
- availability of veterinary clinics, wildlife rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators to care for injured and orphaned wildlife will be limited due to COVID-19
- veterinary clinics are considered to be essential services, but they now require an appointment for any visits, and prefer payments to be electronic. Social distancing measures apply inside the clinic, and some veterinary services may not be available at this time.
Are there changes to the way wildlife rescue operates?
At this time, wildlife rescuers can continue to operate the following services:
- rescuing injured and orphaned wildlife
- transporting the animal to the nearest veterinary clinic (noting the need to make an appointment).
However, the following changes will need to be made to the way wildlife rescue operates:
- volunteer wildlife rescuers must only attend a rescue where there are no other options available
- wildlife rescuers must not enter private residences other than their own
- rescue services must take precautions to ensure their volunteers are operating in a safe working environment
Can I still undertake wildlife rehabilitation activities?
Wildlife rehabilitators may leave their place of residence to conduct necessary rehabilitation activities.
- attending a veterinary appointment
- gathering native browse
- transporting to the site of release an animal that has completed rehabilitation
However, release must be as close as practicable to the carer’s place of residence and cannot involve post-release support. Releases are to be “hard releases” in order to minimise public movement.
Mentoring assistance must be conducted over the phone or through video call, rather than in person.
Is additional hygiene neccessary?
It is considered unlikely that wildlife are infected with COVID-19. However, wildlife may be involved in the transfer of the infection from person to person.
A carer may become aware that they are positive for COVID-19 after
- rescuing wildlife
- transporting wildlife
- taking wildlife into care
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to notify the authorities of possible contacts, and rescuers and carers should include wildlife movements and transfers in this disclosure.
COVID-19 may persist on wildlife fur for up to two days (subject to the right conditions) if they are in contact with an infected person. Decontamination and hygiene measures will mitigate the risk of transfer from person to person.
The following hygiene measures should be undertaken:
- wildlife-human face contact must be minimised and PPE must be worn
- hot detergent wash for all rescue and rehabilitation equipment
- good hand hygiene must continue to be a priority throughout all rescue and rehabilitation activities
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment acknowledges the important role of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation services and volunteers, and will continue to work with the sector during these challenging times.