Troo Devotion

Oscar and Bruce

Wildlife carer Jenny Hayden devoted her life, and her home, to save Australia’s favourite furry friends from unfortunate ends.

SURVIVORS: Oscar and Bruce are the first Kangaroos Jenny Hayden saved

By Chantel Russell

Jenny Hayden has yet to name her newest family addition. She needs a strong name – something indicative of the struggle for survival facing her current change.

Upon seeing the protruding rib cage, spine and hipbones, one must wonder how she has managed to survive this long. But looking past the cute face, long clawed feet, and thin tail, it becomes clear – this roo’s a fighter, and she’s not alone in this battle.

Jenny is a self-described “mad wildlife carer”, giving kangaroos and wallabies like “little no-name” a second chance at life.

“Someone had found her and kept her as a pet for at least a week, and she’s skin and bone. She’s battling to be alive because they didn’t feed her properly. She’s terribly sick and dehydrated because they did the wrong thing.”

STRUGGLING: Little no-name is finally getting the care she needed

Jenny’s passion and devotion for these animals is obvious, even after seven years as a carer. It is a life-changing and rewarding labour of love that started out when a friend rang and told her that she’d booked them both in to do a wildlife course.

“A friend of mine found a possum and it was covered in green ant bites and had burns in its eyes,” she said. Her friend took the possum to the vet, but was unable to look after it as she didn’t have a wildlife carer permit.

“I did the course on the Sunday and had my first wallaby on the Tuesday.”

Oscar was her first. He was followed two days later by Bruce.

“I was terrified,” Jenny said as she recalled her first experience with a wallaby. “I was scared of those long skinny legs. I’ve got big hands and I was like ‘I’m gonna squish them or snap them.’ You don’t realise how strong they are, but they’re also so delicate.”

It took Jenny a good six months to get used to it, and since then she hasn’t had less than 10 animals in care.

Right now there’s Oliver, Bandit, Blackie, Yogi, Boo, Lucy, Allie, and the list goes on…

It’s clear from looking around that chaos has become the way of life.

At one stage Jenny was caring for 35 kangaroos and wallabies, including nine pinkies (the tiny baby joeys that haven’t yet grown fur) that required three-hourly feeds. Then there was the other 26, all at different stages of development and requiring feeds at varying intervals throughout the day.

“All I did was feed, and clean up poo, and wash bottles. I didn’t drive out of here for six weeks.”

Sharing her house with the animals

Before the animals moved in Jenny and her family shared the house with their macropod guests and their ‘native’ way of life.

Now, the joeys have their own quarters.

The ‘Roo Room’ is an extension built onto the back of the house and includes an area for food preparation, bathing, and a separate room so the wallabies and kangaroos can hop in and out as they please.

All so the Hayden family could have their lounge room back.

ROO ROOM: The kangaroos have their own room to recover and restrengthen

Jenny doesn’t have a favourite, but she does have a soft spot for “the ones that have fought so hard to survive”.

It’s not always a happy ending for these little Aussie battlers, though.

“I had one wallaroo that had tetanus. He survived the tetanus but it affected his left side, so he couldn’t hop. We tried for six months, but he ended up having to be put down. That broke my heart because he was so beautiful and fought so hard”.

Roo Roo was another of Jenny’s fighters. “She was someone’s pet when I got her and she couldn’t move her feet.” Roo Roo had two broken feet that hadn’t been looked at. Months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy got her to the point where she was just two weeks away from being released when she died suddenly from a burst abscess near her heart.

“I almost quit with her. I went through the whole `what am I doing this for, what’s the point´?”

“A lot of people don’t keep up with it (wildlife caring) because of that,” she said.

“But then you look at the other little faces. We need our native animals.”

Jenny credits her longevity in wildlife caring to the support of her family. “I don’t know how people do it without support. It’s a lot of work and heartache. But I think that if we all just stopped, who’s going to look after them?”

As for the little girl without a name, Jenny doesn’t know whether or not she will survive. But she is certainly being given the best chance of hopping out of there.