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Cooma inmates help wombats become fighting fit

Last published on 03 May 2021 in Media Releases

A unique device that administers medication to wombats is being manufactured by inmates at a NSW prison.

Cooma Correctional Centre staff and inmates have been praised for assembling 1,000 burrow trap-doors, which tilt and pour medication onto wombats as they enter and leave their underground homes.

Snowy Mountains Wildlife Rescue vice president Elena Guarracino has presented the team with a certificate of appreciation and said their efforts were a game changer in the fight against mange, a potentially deadly skin disease.

“We don’t always have enough volunteers or the time to make these tricky devices so we are delighted to have this partnership with the prison,” Ms Guarracino said.

“Often it’s not possible to get close enough to a wombat to apply the medication so the burrow flaps provide a simple yet highly effective way to treat the disease.

“Unfortunately, wombats will die from mange within two years of contracting it, but the positive is that the infection is reversible with correct treatment.”

Recycled materials including tuna tins and corflutes are donated by the community, which are used to build the wombat burrow flaps.

Corrective Services NSW Industries Manager George Hancock said the four minimum-security inmates jumped at the opportunity to help the wildlife group.

“The men gain skills using hand tools such as band saws but more importantly learn to take pride in their work, knowing they are giving back,” Mr Hancock said.

“These inmates are usually employed in prison grounds-maintenance and work on the flaps during quieter periods.

“We plan to continue this partnership and do our bit to ensure the survival of these beautiful furry creatures.”

Wombats do not have immunity to the mange mite, which is very itchy and causes the marsupials to develop wounds and thick scabs, dehydration and malnutrition.

Wildlife groups such as LAOKO – Snowy Mountains Wildlife Rescue ensure the maintenance of these burrow trap-doors by keeping them in position, replacing damaged ones, and refilling them with the medication.

In some areas, cameras are used to monitor the wombats’ progress.

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