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The rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned Australian wildlife is managed by over 20,000 carers, mostly voluntarily. These volunteers experience mental, physical and financial challenges that have not been researched adequately. This study collated the responses (n = 316) to a survey conducted among Australian wildlife carers who actively foster orphaned joeys for hand-raising and injured adult mammals for rehabilitation and release. It confirmed 86% of rehabilitators are female, 70% are over the age of 46 years and their prime motivation is an affinity with animals. The average time spent in the sector is 11.5 years, and the work week is 31.6 h, caring for 15 animals per year, with an average of 2.6 dying. The average financial commitment is AUD5300 annually and up to AUD800,000 over a lifetime. Regarding the grief experienced by carers, the lower the age, the longer the time spent, the greater the financial input and the more joeys that died, the more severe is the grief experienced. Moderate to severe grief is experienced by 28% of carers, which, coupled with other factors, could lead to burnout or compassion fatigue. Soon, wildlife carer welfare will likely be compromised unless financial and mental support is provided and their workload reduced.


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