One of the pleasures we look forward to every year when we make our journey home to Australia is visiting the Uralla Wildlife Sanctuary. Nestled deep in the Western Australian (WA) countryside near the small town of Perillup, injured wildlife come here for rescue, recuperation and hopefully, release. The main attraction here are the joeys and kangaroos, which the public are free to come and feed, pet and care for during their visit.
Uralla was originally founded by John and Mandy English in 2000 on their 40 acre bush block. Their world changed when they took in their first Joey, Archie. I caught up with Mandy in August and she explains more on the background to Uralla for us;
“I had absolutely no idea what was involved in looking after a joey & certainly didn’t know the time involved in caring for one. Nevertheless we got Archie after his mum was killed and that was the start of a steep learning curve for John and I. Not having anything to do with kangaroos before I was amazed at their intelligence, their need for love as babies, their gentleness and their absolute need for love and affection or else as babies they will just give up & die.
From that small beginning and because we had 40 acres, other people started asking us to take on more joeys and I joined a wildlife group, did some training and lots of reading. Eventually we outgrew our block so moved to our current site 7 years ago.”
Now based on 150 acres, animal numbers have swelled in recent years – now over 150 animals call Uralla home. Mostly Western Grey kangaroos which are native to southern WA, but other animals being cared for include various native birds, orphaned lambs, rescue dogs, wallabies, red kangaroos, euros, goats, chickens, a bull as well as dingo pups!
“About 5 years ago we were asked to take two rescued dingo pups and today Uralla has seven dingoes. With the W.A. government having a policy of eradication they can not be released and will live with us at Uralla.”
Volunteers at Uralla
When they first moved to their new premises in 2009, there was no power, no fences, no buildings. Things have come a long way since then but are a continual work in progress based on funding and time, each year we visit new buildings or shelters appear. Mandy & John could not continue to manage all this on their own;
“At first John & I did it alone but about 6 years ago because of the number of animals arriving we started taking volunteers. This has also been a fantastic experience, naturally sometimes there are volunteers that we don’t get along with but on the whole we have met so many amazing young people. They are all overseas people who live with us on site.
We have on average 7-10 volunteers staying at any one time and ask that they stay a minimum of one month. Quite a number of the volunteers return for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th volunteering stint and John and myself have had our lives enriched by these beautiful friends.”
Every time we have visited Uralla the faces of the volunteers (other than Mandy & John) have changed but there are many things that remain constant. All the volunteers are passionate about their work. No matter how long they’ve worked there, they talk enthusiastically and in detail about their charges, knowing their names and the backgrounds that brought them to Uralla. They all live together on site with the roos and do everything from the feeds to shoveling poo – a lot of ‘roo poo!!
The vast majority of their animals have come to them as a result of mum being killed in a road accident and thoughtful by-passers thinking to check the pouch for a joey. At this age the joey still needs regularly feeding and comfort, so pillow cases and other clothing are made in to make shift pouches for them and they are bottle fed at regular intervals. The very young ones will be carried around by the volunteers in their apron pockets, the slightly older ones have special hammocks made for sleeping in, then when they are old and strong enough they will move to the outdoor paddock with the juveniles.
The day at Uralla starts from about 6.30am when the first round of feeding commences and goes through to 10pm. Having visited several times with my own babies, the joey’s really are remarkably similar at this young age in their needs for milk, comfort and sleep. This has been a truly touching experience for me as a mum, as well as my children getting the joy out of petting the kangaroos. (Though they aren’t always brave! The kangaroos hopping can be a little frightening for youngsters so bare this in mind when you enter the paddocks. there are no cages or enclosures here, its the real deal!)
Once kangaroos are released, they still like to return to their first home and adore the attention they receive off the volunteers. Here you can see the released roos being fed through the fence along with the juveniles still being cared for.
How you can get involved
There’s one joey that has always touched a chord with our little globetrotters and that’s Zoe. When Zoe’s mum died, she had to be flown to Perth and driven 4 hours to Uralla. She is one of the only Reds which makes her quite unique here (Red’s grow to be the largest of all the kangaroos). After wobbly beginnings she is now a cheeky, affectionate and very popular ‘roo with the volunteers.
We are delighted that Uralla have now introduced a sponsorship program. Naturally Zoe was our Miss Z’s first choice when we asked her which kangaroo she’d like to adopt! She will not be able to be released as she is not native to the area so will remain with Uralla for life.
After sponsoring one of the kangaroos you receive a pack with your kangaroo’s background, species fact sheets and will get updates on their progress. Even without visiting the sanctuary, you are able to adopt a ‘roo, as an individual, a family or as a school class. Here’s their adoption page or you can also donate to the general costs and up keep of the sanctuary here on Go Fund Me.
Uralla never directly ask for money from their visitors and very much run and open door policy, they just ask you call in advance to let them know to expect you. If you are timing a visit and want to see and join in with feeding, most joeys are feed at midday, a big operation with so many joeys around now so you’re bound to get involved. Bring your wellies as it can get muddy and if you have any spare blankets, old tshirts, pillowcases or feed donations they’re always thankful.
“Uralla is a registered charity and we rely solely on donations, our “sponsor an animal” programme and Volunteer proceeds of $ 5 per day in order to survive. Money is always tight & our Committee often suggest that we should put a cap on the number of animals we take but both John & I are determined that we will never turn away an animal needing care.”
More from Mandy
Our success rate for release back to the wild is around 85% with obviously some deaths & some with permanent injuries that mean they will live with us always at Uralla. We have had film crew from the U.K., The Netherlands & Aust come to make documentaries either about Uralla or about kangaroos.
John and I feel blessed that we get to live our lives surrounded by our unique, amazing and loving wildlife.”
How to find Uralla
Although hidden in a quite remote corner of WA, it is well sign posted from the Muirs Highway. It is about a one hour drive north of Denmark on the south coast, or 40 minutes west from Mount Barker.
If you are looking to give your family a truly unique Australian experience, I cannot recommend Uralla enough.
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Tell us about your wildlife experiences in Australia, where else can kids get a hands-on experience and make a genuine difference to Australian Wildlife?
Thanks to Mandy and all her volunteers for the time they take to patiently show our children around every year and give them such amazing memories.