Judith Hopper's home at Millfield is not so much a house as an ark.
At the entrance to the kitchen, resting in a puppy pen, are a couple of young swamp wallabies. In the lounge room is a wombat. In the bathroom, there is an eastern long-necked turtle sauntering along the bath. Beside it, in a baby's bath, is a water dragon.
What was Hopper's home office is now an "animal room". It houses two more wombats, along with a sugar glider and a ring-tailed possum.
Out the front is a jumble of little wooden boxes, waiting to be installed in the bush to provide shelter for possums and birds.
And in the backyard, there is no barbecue or swimming pool. Rather, it holds a "kindy pen" for young kangaroos and wallabies, a section of pocked and welted earth that is a temporary home for wombats, and a large aviary, which serves as a "creche" for baby flying foxes.
So this is not your usual household.
"No, I suppose not," agrees Judith Hopper, as she scoops up the little wallabies, named Erland and Lorelle, and places them in a fabric pouch. "Although really in my world, it's not that unusual."
Hopper's world is the animal world. She is heavily involved in Hunter Wildlife Rescue, an organisation with about 250 members dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing native fauna in need of help. Hopper coordinates care for flying foxes, wombats and turtles.
Her door is open to all kinds of creatures.
Judith Hopper may not be a Doctor Dolittle, although she is constantly talking to the animals. But she is a carer and landlady, a nurse and a mother to native fauna.
During the recent summer of horrible heat and bushfires, Hopper has been a saviour, as she has taken care of dozens of animals at any one time in her small home.
"She is an absolute wonder with the animals," says Hopper's friend and fellow wildlife carer Bev Marsh. "She's such a fighter for our wildlife. It doesn't matter if it's macropods or flying foxes or wombats, she's there and she's fighting with everything she's got to try and improve things for them."
It was an exhausting summer for Hopper and other volunteer carers at Hunter Wildlife Rescue. Hopper's home became an emergency centre for injured and starving fauna. In the extreme heat, flying foxes, particularly babies, were dropping to the ground.
Emergency teams worked in the bush, providing first aid to stricken flying foxes, before transporting many of them to Hopper.
Hunter Wildlife Rescue: 0418 628 483
(This is an edited version of Scott Bevan's Weekender story on Judith Hopper and her fellow wildlife rescuers .)
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