#PeopleOfNRM – Janelle Ende

For this month’s #PeopleOfNRM, our Biodiversity Project Officer Sam sat down with Janelle Ende of ‘Just Raptors’! Janelle is a wildlife warrior, and has been working to rehabilitate birds of prey on her property for over 20 years.

For how long have you been involved in wildlife rehabilitation? What made you go down this path?

About 30 years! As a child growing up on my farm in Northampton, my dad showed me my first bird. It was a Tawny Frogmouth which he referred to as a Stick Bird. Every afternoon, I would go down the creek to see the stick bird I then started taking notice of the birds on our farm. I thought that I would be a zoologist but unfortunately due to being dyslexic, I really struggled with school.

Fast forward to 1993, Glenn and I came home one day to find a tiny 4-week-old Australian Kestrel on our doorstep. She had fallen out of the nest and couldn’t fly. I rang CALM and spoke to Kevin Marshall who was the wildlife officer (he would go on to be a huge part of my wildlife life and mentor). He gave me some phone numbers of wildlife carers but no one wanted to take on this baby. I then contacted Phillip Pain at Eagles Heritage in Margaret River he was my main mentor he told us all we needed to know to successfully raise this baby.  My next person for advice was Steve Duda who owned Chapman Animal Hospital. Again, he went on to become my mentor as well.

Kevin Marshall then asked if I wanted to become a Wildlife Carer, specialising in Raptors. “Shadow” grew up and was released from our property. And that is where my story begins.

The ‘Just Raptors’ crew releasing an eagle.

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What type of work is involved in running this type of service?

Time, time, and a lot of patience. A breakdown of some of the work involved includes;

Rescues

  • Remote advice to people on stations and also careers around Western Australia.
  • Driving to pick up birds could be 20 minutes or could be 8 hour’s depending on where the bird is
  • Available for rescues 24/7

Initial Treatment and Rehabilitation

All birds and injuries are different, the time of rehabilitation varies from 24 hours to 2 years depending on the situation and injury of the birds.

For Example; birds with a concussion could go out within 48 to 72 hours providing head trauma is not presented and they have passed all the ticks on the checklist:

  1. Are they flying?
  2. Are they eating?
  3. Do they appear aggressive towards you? (A quiet bird that you can pat is usually a very sick bird.)

Larger birds however, can take up to 2 years to be released due to their size, healing, and recovery process being much slower. We have 15 aviary’s and 2 transportable dongas, they start from 2x2x2 meters, 8×4 metres, 10×5, 20x 10, 35x20x10. These transportables are used as animal hospitals.

Feeding

All birds are fed and watered daily, aviaries are raked monthly and all permanent birds have a monthly check-up. An example of what they eat daily for 1 bird Wedge tails Eagles x 1 Rabbit, Owls x 1 rat or 3 mice, Peregrines, kites , Harriers x 1/2 rabbit or 1x quail or 1x rat each, Kestrels , Sparrowhawks x 3 mice or 1 quail or 1/4 rabbit.

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Wildlife care and rehabilitation is a labour of love and passion. What is it about raptors that is so special to you, and where does your passion for these birds come from?

How do I express in a few words the privilege I feel when working with these birds?

It starts with getting critically ill birds in and providing them with the necessary care they need to grow their freedom wings. The lows you go through are outweighed by the releases and second chance of life you are giving them. It’s about allowing yourself to feel sad when they pass away or you have to make that decision to let them grow their angel wings, after doing everything you possibly can for them. It’s about these birds coming in so broken and the trust they have to allow you to help them. It’s about knowing you are about to spend the good part of the night getting up every two hours to check and stabilise birds in the hospital, only to then get up in the morning and go to your paying job. It’s about holding a critically injured dying bird to your chest to give it warmth, knowing that this bird is not going to live.

An Owlet Nightjar recently rescued by ‘Just Raptors’.

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Do you have a rough idea of how many birds you have cared for over the years?

On average, over 30 years we would take in roughly 80 birds per year. Which would be roughly 1800 birds over 30 years.

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On average how much of your time per week does work associated with rescuing or rehabilitation take up?

It takes an hour a day to feed and water the permanent birds. Rehabilitating birds – depending on injuries – could be up to four hours a day for one bird. Rescuing birds again depends on where the birds are and how far we have to travel.

I generally try and get birds brought to me or transported by courier companies. Most people want to see where the bird is actually going, and it also puts their minds at ease when they can meet us and speak to us.

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Has ‘Just Raptors’ ever had much help with funding (community support or grants) or has your work for the most part been self-funded and volunteered by your own personal income?

‘Just Raptors’ is purely a self-funded program. We did however have a donation jar at our displays, which gave the community the opportunity to donate to us. We also have had donations from various companies. We had two transportable dongas donated and we belong to the Society For The Preservation Of Raptors, where we get some funding for food and two aviary’s, when it’s available. The total cost to run ‘Just Raptors’ per year is approximately $8000, which is now mainly fuel and food.

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What percentage of your work over the years has been educational (creating awareness, doing school presentations/displays) to promote the importance of raptors in our ecosystems?

About 70 %. This would include:

  • School fetes
  • Geraldton Camp School
  • Museum school holiday programs
  • Million Paws for walk displays
  • Shark Bay / Monkey Mia school holiday programs
  • Facebook advertising
  • Explaining process of release to people who hand in injured birds
  • ‘Wildlife Carer’ course at TAFE
  • Helping Western Power erect Osprey and Wedge Tail Eagle towers
  • Hosting vet nurses and animal TAFE students at our property for basic wildlife handling and first aid

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What are some of the biggest challenges that raptors face and common reasons why you are called to help?

The biggest challenge is educating the public. The biggest threat to these beautiful creatures are us humans. We are the ones that continually lay out baits for mice, rats, and rabbits. All of which can inevitably kill the birds. Other threates include:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Extra traffic on roads each year, as our population grows.
  • Rubbish not being discarded of properly, especially dental floss and twine off hay bales. Both of these, if used in nest building, will result in loss of limbs as the twine wraps around them.
  • Barbed wire fencing, resulting in birds being caught in barbs.

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Where has your work with raptor rehabilitation taken you?

We get birds from all over Western Australia. As we have a 35 metre aviary, carers from around the state have the opportunity to send Wedgetail Eagles, Ospreys or White-Breasted Eagles to us for final flight exercise, where they can rebuild strength. But we mainly get them from Karratha, Shark Bay, Meekatharra and surrounding areas, as well as Jurien Bay, and as far down as Moora.

Samantha Comito – Biodiversity Project Officer

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