RSPCA LANDCARE SUPPORTS RSPCA WILDLIFE RECOVERY CENTRE

Background

RSPCA Landcare Group has been working for over 11 years to restore Woodland and EPBC Listed Swamp on the 4.4 ha RSPCA site in Mort Street North Katoomba. This bushland site contributes to a continuous bushland corridor along Katoomba Creek into the Grose Valley.

The buildings, pounds and exercise yards are at the top of the slope near Mort Street, below which is a fence separating the woodland where the Landcare group primarily works. Below the woodland a blue Mountains swamps runs down to Katoomba creek.

Weed Plume being treated 2009 Credit: Lyndal Sullivan

RSPCA Landcare has removed a large weed plume of blackberry, cotoneaster, cherry laurel, broom and holly). We are now working on scattered weeds as well as pushing back an edge of holly.

Remaining Holly being treated in 2020 Credit: BMCC

We welcome more members to join us and enjoy this lovely bushland. Swamp wallabies regularly graze in the Swamp. The Landcare site contains diverse bushland showcasing the spectacular colour of native wildflowers in Spring 2020.

Wildlife Recovery Centre

We wish to explain why we support a proposal for a wildlife recovery centre here in the Blue Mountains.

Our work has successfully restored the swamp and woodland on the RSPCA site for local native wildlife, hence this site provides an excellent location for the rehabilitation of injured animals.

The RSPCA has announced that it has received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. (RSPCA Media Unit 9/10/2020)

This proposal has raised 3 issues:

  1. Is it needed?
  2. Will the domestic Animal Shelter continue?
  3. Can wildlife and domestic animals be cared for on this same site without further stress?
  1. Need

The 2019/2020 bushfires saw many injured wildlife sent to Taronga Zoo for care by specialist staff. For months, dedicated volunteers collected huge amounts of leaves locally and delivered them to the zoo for koalas.

This highlighted the need for a permanent wildlife care and rehabilitation facility closer to where our native animals live, and without the transport problems of a central Sydney location. This centre will not replace the need for WIRES carers to continue their invaluable work, but work alongside and complement that important service. 

2. Continuation of Katoomba Shelter for Companion Animals

There is considerable concern in the community that this is an attempt by the RSPCA to close the shelter, as it attempted to do in 2014.  As some of our members were involved in the successful community action to stop this closure, we believe this is a justifiable concern. We recognise that having a local shelter for cats and dogs reduces the likelihood of them being dumped in the bush and preying on native species.

RSPCA NSW appears to have given contradictory information to the Blue Mountains Branch, the Landcare group and Gazette about the continuation of the shelter for dogs.

In a report to the branch on August 1 2020, Rita Perkins (Senior Operations manager, RSPCA NSW) stated that if successful in obtaining the licence, then the site will not be able to look after dogs. Maybe there has been a change of plan?  If so, it just needs to be acknowledged. 

RSPCA NSWs Wildlife Manager Nick de Vos stated (29/9/2020) The RSPCA intends to continue to provide essential services to stray, lost, injured, neglected and at-risk animals and pet owners in the Blue Mountains community.

The RSPCA Media Unit issued the following statement on 9/10/2020 We announced earlier this year that, as part of our commitment to the people and animals of New South Wales, we are exploring establishing a facility that can manage both companion animals and wildlife at our Blue Mountains site.

We are pleased to announce that we have received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license, which means we are one step closer to making the project happen! The proposal submitted is for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. We still have a long way to go with this journey, but this approval means that the government has granted us permission to proceed with the design and development of the facility.

We are in the process of submitting a proposal to Blue Mountains City Council to continue to provide impound animal management services for the region on behalf of the council. Next, we will be submitting a Development Application to Blue Mountains City Council for the development of the dual occupancy site. The site has the size, space and potential to successfully manage both companion animals and wildlife. The design of the proposed infrastructure and enclosures are being carefully considered with this objective in mind. Has there been a changed of plan?

3. Stress free care for both domestic and native animals?

  • How can the traditional role of the shelter continue alongside this proposed wildlife rehabilitation area?  How can each companion animal and native animal be cared for in a safe, stress-free environment?
  • The size and shape of the site could allow for separation of functions. The cats that come into RSPCA are now housed in a custom-built indoor cattery and dogs are housed in concrete kennels. We understand that the use of indoor facilities for dogs is being researched and considered. Indoor shelters for dogs are common in many cold European countries for climatic reasons.
  • The current Taronga Zoo situation has very limited space and a wide range of animals in close proximity. Whilst more details are required, the Landcare group supports the Wildlife Recovery Centre in principle as a way to enable more wildlife to be rehabilitated closer to their natural habitats.

Native wildlife populations have been and continue to be greatly impacted by natural disasters and habitat loss, we therefore believe it is important to explore opportunities like this to invest in their care and recovery.

Lyndal Sullivan on behalf of RSPCA Landcare Group