At Jarake Wildlife Sanctuary, the animals have the advantage of being soft-released. Our enclosures allow for the adjustment to be “free” at a level that suits each individual without rushing them and always allowing them to chose to come back for as long as it takes. For most of the time, we can continue to monitor them long after their release to make sure they are settling in as free-living and are staying fit and healthy. In fact, many don’t want to leave and have made their home range around the Sanctuary. We have a Wombatorium full of adult wombats every night coming “home” for a feed, female macropods raise their joeys around “home” and bring sick joeys to us to care for.
After raising each orphan for up to 18 months, saying goodbye feels like an achievement. We do of course get very close to each individual animal but their time has come and our job is supposed to be done. The wombats to be released will get gradual contact with the established older wombats and they therefore learn to tolerate each other and learn how to coexist. Wombats have a complex social structure and even though they like company, a few have clear boundaries of what is too close. We have areas allowing all released wombats to return and areas where young are raised preventing contact with the older wombats until they are ready. We have burrows within two acres of enclosures allowing the newly released wombats practice sharing burrows with older mature wombats while we can monitor their behaviour.
We have a network of flaps and gates leading to different enclosures allowing “isolation”, “mixed” and “freedom” areas. Gates and flaps are at first left open under supervision and then closed again. The time of freedom is slowly expanded until the flaps or gates can be left unlocked full time. Macropod release is much easier than wombats as they just join the mob on the other side of the enclosure and return for the first few nights. As previous released macropods raise their young around the enclosure, our orphans are often around the same age as the “free” joeys and they know each other for many months before the actual release making it an easy transition.
Most released animals are reluctant to go too far and many make their home range very close and return most days or nights for the rest of their lives. We spend many hours with them after release and learn about their individual habits, favourite grazing and resting areas. Because we know who is who, where and how they live their lives, Blinks Film from UK made two documentary films for Animal Planet filmed at the Sanctuary featuring our released wombats in the wild as well as two of the orphans that was in care at the time. The two films are broadcast all over the world. Life with Wombats “Wombat Wood” and Life with Wombats “A Joey’s Journey”.
The benefit of soft release and them making their home range close is the possibility to continue monitor and able to help them if they sustain an injury or get sick. Kangaroo mothers who have lost their joeys for some reason have returned to us and we have helped them in their search…..Mothers have brought their sick joeys home and left them at our front gate. Wombats return after territorial and mating battles for rest and recovery allowing us to tend to their wounds and battle scars. It is such a privilege to be allowed into their adult lives, be accepted and share their journey and their right of a safe and free life.