LIFE SAVER: Currumbin Wildlife Hospital volunteer Fay Buerger checks on Belinda the koala, injured when hit by a car at Byron Bay.
LIFE SAVER: Currumbin Wildlife Hospital volunteer Fay Buerger checks on Belinda the koala, injured when hit by a car at Byron Bay. Yvonne Gardiner

Fay is still wild about helping animals 65yrs on

FAY Buerger has turned her attention to wild animals after nursing humans for many years.

As a volunteer at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, Fay might be called upon to look after birds, water dragons, kangaroos, koalas, bush turkeys, pelicans, echidnas or turtles.

"The only thing we're not allowed to handle is bats, because we're not vaccinated," she said.

"When they come in sick, we put them in cages and weigh and feed them every day."

Lorikeets have a tendency to bite when "taken out of their comfort zone", Fay says, and she's not too fond of snakes.

The 75-year-old started volunteering at the wildlife hospital four years ago, shortly after retiring to Palm Beach on the Gold Coast.

Her husband Doug drives the ambulance and helps with animal releases and fundraising.

Fay's normal shift is four hours every Friday.

"You're flat out all the time. It's full-on," she said.

"I wanted to do something (after retirement), but I have arthritis and knee replacements.

"I applied, and got a job in wildlife.

"It's so nice to see the animals up close and personal.

"Most of them get better.

"It's nice when they're going to be released."

Fay says a wildlife hospital volunteer needs perseverance and stamina.

And she prefers to treat animals over humans.

"They don't answer back. The worst thing is, they bite. Some of them smell," she said.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary senior vet Michael Pyne says the 120 volunteers are crucial to the work at the hospital.

"We simply couldn't look after all our animals without the volunteers," he said.

"We admit over 8000 cases per year and over 300 koalas.

"Around 50% of the volunteers are retired seniors and the other half are younger people trying to get into the industry.

"No qualifications are needed, just the ability and desire to work hard and get along with people - and not be afraid of animals."

The range of volunteer positions includes nurse assistant, reception, ambulance driver, guest interaction and administration.

Donations to the hospital can be made at


Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary founder Alex Griffiths started caring for sick and injured wildlife more than 65 years ago.

As the need for specialist care became obvious, the first veterinarian was employed at the sanctuary and in 1989 the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital was born.

Since that day, the hospital has grown to become one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world.

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