Violet, Purple Swamphen

Tura Beach Country Club rang one of the wildlife groups to complain about a Purple Swamphen which was jumping on tables and taking food from customers. They wanted it removed.

And so Violet arrived at the Sanctuary.

At first she shared the Café Pen with the potoroos, and roosted high in a Kangaroo Apple Tree at night.

Then she started appearing each night at the house where two keepers, Tom and Warran, were staying. She seemed to like human company. In the morning, Tom would find the hole through which she had escaped, and mend it. It soon became obvious that she was making the holes herself in the black netting which covered the top of the pen.

We discovered that she had been reared by a human foster parent, and so was more drawn to humans than to other birds.

Now she lives in a much bigger pen with wire over the top.

She runs to every visitor who comes past, and likes to have her head scratched. She screeches when the train goes round.

Purple Swamphens, in the wild, live in family groups. Many females may lay in one nest and take turns in incubating the eggs. When the chicks hatch, they are taken out to forage, usually by a young family member, and kept warm at night by other family members. They are found in wetlands in our local area.

Potoroo Palace on Facebook

Potoroo Palace is now on Facebook, please feel free to have a look and interact with us. Looking forward to your involvement:

Phoebe’s story

Phoebe is the only one of the nine Grey-headed Flying Foxes who can fly. She is also the biggest and fattest of them!

She was found as an orphan by a boy in the grounds of Quaama Public School. That year many adult Flying Foxes were being brought into care suffering from starvation because of the clearing of their food trees (rain forest species and flowering gums) and drought. She was very underweight for her age and may not have been getting enough milk from her mother to give her the strength to hang on to her mother’s body as the latter flew out to forage.

Phoebe was fostered by a first-time carer who decided not to use a dummy; instead the carer liked to have Phoebe clinging to her hair. All flying-fox orphans need to have a dummy otherwise they think they are going to fall; wild babies hold onto their mothers for the first five weeks by grasping the nipple in their mouths and holding onto her body with their claws. The mother flies out each evening to search for food with the baby clinging to her stomach. At six weeks old, the babies are left behind in the camp together in a crèche for the night; at dawn the mothers come back and the babies can feed from them. At thirteen weeks old the babies begin to fly and can accompany the adults (for short distances at first) when they fly out at dusk.

The carers of Flying Fox orphans try to mimic the wild situation by putting the orphans into a creche together at thirteen weeks old. Usually one or two older males are put with them to teach them rules of Flying Fox behaviour. The creche is always fairly close to an existing Flying Fox camp.
At night the release door of the creche aviary is left open so that the young ones can come and go at will and learn to fly out with the adults.

Phoebe was soft released in this way, but while her peers came and went and eventually remained with the colony, Phoebe always returned at night to be fed in the creche aviary. She was happy to socialise all day with hundreds of wild Flying Foxes, but came back at night to be fed by humans.
If she were pushed out into the wild, she would fly straight to the first person she saw. And she has never learned to forage for herself.

Flying Foxes

Nine Grey-headed Flying Foxes now live at Potoroo Palace. They came from the Pambula Conservation Area, known as Batty Towers. Over the years, many injured and orphaned Flying Foxes have come to the hospital aviary there. Many have recovered and been released back into the colony which camps there between February and May in years when there is a mass flowering of bloodwoods.

The nine who have come to Potoroo Palace are ones who have repeatedly been offered the opportunity of leaving to join the wild Flying Foxes via the release door of the aviary, which is opened at dusk each night while the colony is in residence at Pambula, and closed at dawn. They have chosen not to go. In eight cases this is because their injuries from barbed wire, loose netting over fruit trees, or electrocution have been too severe for them to heal enough to enable them to fly again. In one case it is because an orphan, Phoebe, was inappropriately reared by a well-meaning, but inexperienced, carer and was unable to wean herself from humans.

When visitors come to look at the Flying Foxes, the Flying Foxes stare back at them. They have very pretty furry faces and bright eyes. It is easy to see how intelligent they are. They are interested in everything that is going on around them. It is as if they need to get to know each new person. They play with the keepers who come into their aviary, and take banana pieces very delicately so as not to bite them. Sometimes they stretch out a wing and hold onto the keeper’s hand with their thumb hook.

They have a lot of family arguments, but they never hurt each other.

Kid’s art inspires murals

Well known local artist Annie Franklin has created two colourful and exciting murals using drawings by children, that are now on display at Potoroo Palace.

The project was funded by CASP ( Country Arts Support Program of Regional Arts NSW ).

Many children took part in the popular Story Time when visiting Potoroo Palace with their families, and in the lead up to this project, they were asked to draw a picture of their favourite Potoroo Palace animal.

Annie faithfully enlarged those drawings, then spent time observing the animals to recreate their unique colourings and markings as naturally as possible.

This resulted in enough beautiful artwork to make two large, eyecatching murals that accurately show our animals as seen through the eyes of children.

One of the murals can be seen just near the entrance to the Blue Wren Café, and the other is on the outside of the Koala enclosure inside the Sanctuary.