FLORA FOR WILDLIFE IN CARE
Produced by Bev & Ian Young for Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services € Copyright 2010
A Quick Pictorial Guide to Plants
for Food and Habitat.
Animals in care should be provided with food and an environment, which closely resembles that of the wild.
Watch each species in its natural habitat - What does it EAT? What does it SHELTER or HIDE in? What does it build its NEST or DREY with? Use this knowledge in setting up your cage or aviary and in selection of food for the animal.
These are plants, branches, floor leaf litter etc. that are important in making a suitable environment for the animal/bird while in care. 'Familiar' habitat helps to lessen stress, makes release an easier transition, and gives essential climbing, exercising, hiding and nest building practice.
For birds leave space to fly! Branches for perching or climbing should
be of varied thickness and texture but avoid sharp points that might injure.
Included in your 'habitat' add some non-native equipment such as ropes, ledges, thick wire - remember these are urban animals, they need practice in negotiating and using many city surfaces.
Always use as large a variety of plants as possible. Towards release time try to use flora which the animal will find at the release site.
Habitat flora does not have to be replaced every day, unlike food flora. However it does help to change the plants and set-up regularly to give practice in adapting to change needed after release.
Balanced nutrition, appropriate quantity and variety are important. Always feed at least 3 different types of foliage. Generally, for possums in care, you will need a good handful bunch per possum each day.
Food flora must be fresh - pick each day and keep in water. If possible pick early in the day when plants are holding more water in their leaves.
Don't pick foliage from the roadside in heavy traffic areas as the leaves may be contaminated.
For birds, select according to their needs, e.g. flowers for Nectivores, fruits, seeds or insects in leaves for birds needing these. However, many birds are not exclusive in their needs, so provide a variety.
Ringtail possums usually eat only the fresh tips of leaves - make sure you supply these. Brushtail possums are easier - they will eat more of the plant.
When feeding possums, check the foliage for lurking insects or spiders, and dispose of these before putting in the cage. Young possums have died from 'allergic' reaction to bites from insects introduced to the cage.
Be aware of your local Council's regulations about taking flora from street trees or from reserves and parks in your area. Most Councils are sympathetic with our cause but do ask that we practise environmentally correct procedures, e.g. taking only a few flowers or sprigs from each established plant, not touching small young or struggling plants. Also we should be discreet in collecting - or risk accusations from members of the public!
Always feed native plants in preference to 'exotics'. We don't want possums being familiar with e.g. roses, then making nuisances of themselves after release when they attack people's gardens! However, at certain times of the year it can be very difficult to find enough native foliage, so a number of suitable non-natives are included in this guide.
If not sure about a native plant crush a leaf and smell it. If it has a Eucalyptus or citrus smell it is probably OK. Lemon and Orange tree leaves are acceptable food for possums but should not be encouraged as they are not found in the bush and again, as with roses, attacking people's gardens does not make your possum popular.
BEWARE of toxic plants. They can and have killed young possums in care.
If in doubt about a plant don't risk it - don't feed it to the animal.
TOXIC - Azalea
TOXIC - new growth with red colouring in stems in
FLORA SUITABLE TO USE FOR WILDLIFE
Garden plants that will encourage native fauna: www.floraforfauna.com.au
Toxic Plants: http://www.aspca.org/toxicplants/M01947.htm
Photo gallery of Australian Plants: http://farrer.riv.csu.edu.au/ASGAP/index.html
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