Cowsnest sanctuary home for orphaned swamp wallaby Banksy

FURRY FRIENDS: Anna Lindstrand and Banksy the swamp wallaby get acquainted at Cowsnest. Banksy was raised by a carer after his mother was killed by a vehicle.

FURRY FRIENDS: Anna Lindstrand and Banksy the swamp wallaby get acquainted at Cowsnest. Banksy was raised by a carer after his mother was killed by a vehicle.

“Banksy” the swamp wallaby was a small, pink and furless orphan when he came into the care of Joan from a Canberra wildlife care group after he discovered when his mother was hit by a car.

Joan fostered him with devotion, along with other swamp and redneck wallabies, and it wasn’t evident until he began hopping around that one of his legs was shorter than the other!

It was surmised there had probably been a break when his mother was

killed and healed itself unnoticed.

Joan’s thoughts were of Canberra Zoo when she realised he was not releasable. If released back to the wild he would be extremely vulnerable, and prone to attack from feral animals.

She decided eventually to call Potoroo Palace and it was agreed he would be happier at Cowsnest, the community farm affiliated with Potoroo Palace.

Initially he is being cared for in a small enclosure with a little shed where his fabric pouch hangs. His new carers simply adore him with his funny sideways hop.

He loves cuddles and is about seven months old now. He enjoys blackberries and roses and also has grevillea, casuarina, wattle and sweet potato in his diet. He loves his milk formula, kangaroo pellets and porridge oats too.

He will eventually be released into the five acre dam sanctuary, which has a feral animal proof fence. This could remain his permanent home.

Other wallabies who are on their way to release progress from the dam sanctuary to the 50 acre sanctuary, which is also feral animal proof, but Banksy will probably spend his life in the dam sanctuary where he can be checked daily and given treats.

By choosing to drive with wildlife awareness we can all help minimise the tragedies that occur every day on our roads.

Koalas find their Valentine at Potoroo Palace

This story was featured in the Merimbula News Weekly on February 11th 2016. Photo and article courtesy of Albert McKnight

Potoroo Palace was the site for an early Valentine’s Day romance, as the animal sanctuary is hoping that a pair of koalas will breed.

Recently, staff at the palace introduced long-time female resident Sapphire to newcomer Jimmy, and sparks began to fly.

When they first met the two began fighting and screaming leaving a lot of fur around their enclosure, but the palace’s animal welfare supervisor John Marsh said this was just part of their courtship.

Even before they came together Sapphire had eyes for Jimmy, as despite hating getting wet she would sit out in the rain to watch him in his pen.

On Wednesday, February 10, Mr Marsh said it was possible Sapphire was already pregnant, so if that was the case there could be a new baby koala at the palace by August or September.

Sapphire was born at Potoroo Palace, Yellow Pinch, five years ago.

Her mother was an 18-year-old called Susie and her father a rescue koala called Blinky – “don’t blame us for the name” –both who have since died.

When Sapphire was born a raffle was run with first prize being her naming rights and Mr Marsh said it was likely the palace would do the same thing when the new baby was born.

While she might treat Jimmy roughly, to humans she is curious and friendly – she liked to be picked up and held by staff.

Mr Marsh said staff do not hold Sapphire now as they are trying to wean her off such an action, but the cuddles started because the marsupial wanted to be reassured after her mother died –she liked to be held on the left side of a person’s body so she could feel their heartbeat.

Two-year-old Jimmy was found beside a road in the Monaro in a very weak condition and was taken to a vet in Cooma.

Mr Marsh said when a wild animal is rescued and rehabilitated it has to be known exactly where they were found for them to be released again.

As the motorists who found Jimmy dropped him at the vet and left, it was unknown where exactly he was found so he cannot be released and will stay at Potoroo Palace.

A major issue with breeding captive koalas is the lack of genetic diversity, Mr Marsh said.

Potoroo Palace was extremely excited, because Sapphire’s father was a wild animal as were both of Jimmy’s parents so that meant their offspring will be highly sought-after by other breeders.

He said it is hoped to swap the baby with a young female to continue breeding koalas.

“Once we put it out there that we’ve got these genetics, we’ll have people knocking on our door looking to swap koalas,” he said.

A koala’s gestation period is 36 days, then the jellybean-sized baby enters its mother’s pouch for six months before it emerges onto its mother’s back.





Whilst tree surgeons at Potoroo Palace were removing a half fallen tree, they were surprised to discover 6 very young mouse- like creatures who went scattering in all different directions. They were subsequently captured and offered up to the keepers to feed the snakes with. But instead, after seeing that they were in fact antechinus – a small native marsupial – the keepers cared for and saved them.

Very young antechinus are particularly difficult to hand rear due to an underslung jaw, unlike baby pygmy possoms and feathertail gliders who can be fed early on with a dropper, but the baby antechinus will get milk in all directions and have to be bathed afterwards every time.

It proved to be a bit of a struggle and they were in need of feeding every 3 hours day and night at one stage. 2 of the litter survived and have grown up very strong and healthy due to the committed and vigilant care of one of Potoroo Palace’s staff.

There are 2 kinds of antechinus in this area; the Dusky (antechinus swainsonii) and the Agile (antechinus agilis). The Agile are a newly discovered variant who were previously thought to be Brown (antechinus stuartii) but are distinguished by their relatively small size, grey body fur, certain skull characteristics and distinctive tissue proteins. They are just one of several species from the family of dasyurids which also includes the more commonly known tasmanian devils, quolls, phascogales and numbats. There are many lesser known species which belong to this family too, and at least 8 known types of antechinus within Australia.

It used to be thought that the Agile Antechinus was carnivorous, eating mainly cockroaches and spiders but it is now known that they are particularly good pollinators especially of banksias and callistemons and considered even better at this than the honeyeater birds!

Palace Potoroos

potoroos shaun


The staff at Potoroo Palace are continually fascinated by the number of visitors who have never heard of, let alone seen, a potoroo and one of the reasons the name was chosen 8 years ago for this local wildlife sanctuary was to highlight the value of this amazing little native marsupial and as a symbol for the importance of protecting our unique environment.

The vulnerable Long-nosed Potoroo (potorous tridactylus) is an endearing little creature, with fur varying from dark red-brown to dark grey, paler on the underside and with a long, pointed nose, bare skinned above the nostrils. The tail usually has a white tip. Their most popular choice of food is truffles, the fruit of underground fungi. They also eat seeds, roots, bulbs and insects. The potoroo spreads fungi spores throughout the forest in its droppings to new places in which they can grow. In addition to this spore dispersal, potoroos also help many trees and shrubs that have a symbiotic, mycorrhizal relationship with fungi, where the fungus benefits plants by increasing their ability to capture water and nutrients. So potoroos do in fact play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the Australian natural environment and by contributing to the elimination of bush fire risk.

There are currently 17 adult Long-nosed Potoroos residing at Potoroo Palace and they can be seen in several different locations within the park. There are 3 visible in the Woodland Aviary sharing the space with 2 bettongs and it is most interesting to see the 2 species together and to try to spot the differences.

There have frequently been potoroo babies (known as joeys) born at Potoroo Palace over the years.  4 have been promised to Chris Humfrey for his Wild Action Zoo in Macedon, Victoria, to prevent any inbreeding and assist with expansion of the gene pool. 3 babies can now be viewed each in different enclosures and adapting to their new life at the palace!


Koala Rescue

It was a busy and exciting month of September for staff. Several different native wild animals were rescued and taken there for care.

One of the most remarkable of these rescues was a young male koala, affectionately named “Woollybutt” since this was one of his favourite species of eucalypt to munch on.

He was found in August sitting in the middle of the road near Wapengo and put into a covered basket while not wanting to move, by his rescuer. This is the best way to assist a koala as it provides support on all sides of the body. He was taken to Potoroo Palace the next day, still sitting in his basket and still seemingly stunned.

Staff had prepared for him a warm, safe enclosure with a tall tree stump and he was carefully checked over again for signs of injury (having already been examined by a vet). The basket was gently tipped towards the stump and to staff’s amazement he crawled out and climbed it, nestling himself comfortably in a fork.

For the next few days he took supplement from a syringe and ate quantities of specially selected eucalyptus leaves. It was a rare privilege for staff to participate in such a heart-warming experience and to be directly contributing to the broader community effort of conserving this local koala population.

“Woollybutt” was dazed and confused  upon arrival but as the days went by he began to make it quite clear that his Potoroo Palace Retreat was coming to an end and he told staff quite plainly that he was ready to go home! This was a little sooner than anticipated and not everyone could be there for his release as planned. The staff who did witness his release were deeply touched to see him return to the wild. He is the first wild koala since 2001to be released in this area and it was a very special moment.

Nigel Charms Palace

One of Potoroo Palace’s newest arrivals is “Nigel” a Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens -meaning ‘reddish high-rump’) and from the same family as that of the potoroo, except that he will grow to be larger. Nigel arrived at Potoroo Palace at the end of October 2014. He is now about 14 months of age and was raised in captivity locally as part of a Bettong Breeding Project which has been a long-time dream of Rob High’s; the owner of the Merimbula based holiday resort, Mandeni. Now this dream has been successfully actualized, and Nigel was generously donated to Potoroo Palace where he can show visitors how special and beautiful he is and assist keepers in sharing just how important the bettong’s role is within the natural environment.

During the day he stays tucked away in grassy nests within his enclosure but as soon as food is presented he scurries out to delve into his bowl of tasty delights, showing plenty of enthusiasm and a very healthy appetite! He can sometimes be seen peeking out through the fence inquisitively watching people. He has settled nicely into his new home and his photogenic qualities have been discovered and appreciated by many of the staff.

As with other members of this family there has been a dramatic reduction in the bettong’s distribution and numbers, but due to low intensity land-use practices throughout the bettong’s range, they have remained quite common and occupy a variety of habitats along much of the eastern coastal areas.

Already, Potoroo Palace staff have fallen head over heels for Nigel and it is always with much delight that he is served his food at meal times. Staff  look forward to seeing his unique personality revealed a little more each day and to showing him off to the public on the Educational Talks, teaching visitors all about him; the adorable Rufous Bettong.



A few weeks ago six small precious bundles arrived in pastel pillowcases travelling by the fastest transport possible (drivers feeding each other so as not to have to pause on the journey) from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra: three male and three female Long-nosed Potoroos. They have now joined the eleven residents, who all have biblical names: Esther, Magdalen, Bathsheba, Ruth, Rachel, Jezebel, Eve, Ezekiel, Daniel, Noah and Solomon. The new six have plant names: Fern, Moss and Orchid (female) and Sedge, Bracken and Wattle (male).

Staff at Potoroo Palace have been able to gather a huge variety of mushrooms recently because the weather has been perfect for all kinds of fungi, the potoroos favourite food. The potoroos themselves are excellent truffle finders, truffles being the fruiting bodies of underground fungi. Australia has a huge variety of truffles, of all shapes, sizes and colours. The truffles rely on small fungus eating native animals (especially potoroos because most of their preferred diet is fungus) and insects to distribute their spores. Most forest trees and many shrubs in Australia have mutually beneficial relationships with these underground fungi. Most of the fruiting bodies grow between the hard subsoil and the rotting leaf litter layer.

The breeding programme for Long-nosed Potoroos at PP has been very successful, but the new arrivals are needed to prevent inbreeding. The seventeen potoroos are distributed between seven enclosures at the moment, making it easier to spot them. The potoroos are happy to share enclosures with many of the birds.

Our emu chicks have grown up!

Our emu chicks have grown up! These 2 are  enjoying a bath. They love to get muddy. Afterwards they shake themselves as a dog would.

emus - Jade Harris (3)

Having a good wallow and cooling off on a hot day.




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.

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.