On Thursday morning, Ann Morgan was walking in the bush near Morisset Hospital, not for enjoyment or exercise, but to try to save a life.
The wildlife rescuer was searching for a kangaroo that had been hit by a car a few hours earlier. Another driver saw the injured roo head into the bush and had reported it. Ms Morgan didn't find the kangaroo, but that didn't dent her resolve.
"I'll do all in my power to save an animal, and if it can't be saved, I don't want to see it suffer," said Ms Morgan.
As a long-time volunteer at Hunter Wildlife Rescue, Ms Morgan frequently finds herself at the collision point of Australia's native animals and human beings' headlong rush through life.
A common term for what she confronts may be "roadkill", but Ms Morgan has to deal with the horrible consequences of the impact between an animal and a vehicle.
Lately, she has been seeing those traumatic sights more frequently, as COVID-19 restrictions are eased and more people are back in their cars. As a result, Ms Morgan is being called out more often to help injured animals, or to rescue orphans, in the western and southern Lake Macquarie areas.
"In the last two weeks there have been six [kangaroos and wallabies] killed that I know of, and three joeys [taken] into care," Ms Morgan explained.
One of those joeys in care was rescued from the pouch of her dead mother by Ms Morgan just over a week ago.
A woman walking her dog at Cooranbong saw a dead red-necked wallaby by the road. Then she noticed feet sticking out of the pouch.
When Ms Morgan reached the site, she estimated the joey had been there for many hours.
"She was very cold, she was icy, when I got her out of the pouch," she said.
The joey was placed in a heated sack and taken to the home of Margaret Howley, Hunter Wildlife Rescue's macropod coordinator for western Lake Macquarie. The joey's rescue determined her name.
"Ann said she was lucky to be alive, but because she's a little girl, she's 'Lucy'," explained Mrs Howley.
"She's going really well. She's very active."
Mrs Howley has cared for injured and orphaned animals for about 35 years. At the moment, she has 10 orphans in her care; four wallabies, including Lucy, and six eastern grey kangaroos.
All of them, she believes, lost their mothers to cars. And any of them could be called "Lucky". For these are the lucky ones. Many more are not rescued, slowly dying in their mother's pouch.
"And it's a horrible death," said Mrs Howley.
Further inland, carers have also been dealing with greater numbers of injured and orphaned wildlife due to motor vehicles.
"It's been pretty hectic," said Jenny Carter, Hunter Wildlife Rescue's acting macropod coordinator in the Maitland and Cessnock areas.
"In the past two weeks, I've had four [kangaroo] 'pinky' joeys, a wombat, a wallaroo and four eastern greys come into care.
"One day last week, I also had four injured kangaroos brought in, all from MVAs (motor vehicle accidents). Of the four, three had to be euthanased."
On Thursday morning, as she was driving a rescued joey to another carer, Jenny Carter had to repeatedly stop her car along a 20-kilometre stretch of road.
"I had to check six kangaroos and a wombat, and they'd just been hit overnight," she explained. She found no young animals.
"People just aren't slowing down."
NRMA Insurance claims data showed there were 10,969 collisions involving animals on NSW roads in 2019. More than 85 per cent of those collisions involved kangaroos.
"If you see an injured animal on the road while driving and it is safe to stop, pull over as far away as you can from the traffic and turn your hazard lights on," said NRMA Research Specialist Chris Emerson.
"You should try to help by moving the injured animal to the side of the road, but make sure to approach any animal with caution, as large injured animals can pose a safety risk."
He advised to not force an animal to eat or drink, and contact a local veterinarian or wildlife rescue centre.
"If you hit a native animal, there's no blame," said Ms Morgan. "Just call Hunter Wildlife Rescue."
As for Lucy, the little wallaby is expected to be released in about a year.
"So good to see you, little girl," Ms Morgan said, while looking at Lucy snuggled in a pouch. "Looking so well."
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