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In an incredible act of determination, wildlife carers have completed an eight-week search in swampy, mosquito-filled conditions in south-east NSW to rescue an orphaned wombat joey.

Heather Brown, a Bombala-based volunteer with LAOKO (Looking After Our Kosciuszko Orphans), found an adult female wombat in January after it had been shot near her spine and hit by a car near Tantawangalo.

The wombat was euthanased but Ms Brown, along with her partner Ross, decided to embark on a mammoth search for her joey.

“When we actually checked for joeys in her pouch, she had an elongated teat which means she was feeding a joey,” she said.

“We used to be out there all night, all day, taking in turns to sit and try and find the joey out of the burrow,”

“There was probably over 300 hours each, searching for this joey over an eight-week period.”

Wildlife cameras situated nearby captured footage of the joey still alive, helping narrow the search.

Ms Brown says it was “emotional journey” once the joey was eventually found, nearly two months later.

“I think it was just knowing he was there and knowing we couldn’t let him die,” she said.

“We took on the mosquitoes, it was a very swampy area, it was very trying but very rewarding when we finally got him.”

On the mend
The joey, named Rossco, has grown from five to 14 kilograms since his rescue and is recovering with a number of other orphaned wombats in LAOKO’s care in Cooma.

He has also healed from wounds on his back, which Charles Sturt University lecturer in animal anatomy Hayley Stannard said was likely inflicted by other wombats.

“Unfortunately, wombats can be fairly territorial, particularly male wombats,” she said.

“They’ve got a pretty sharp bite, so they can get each other around the rump or the shoulders.

“They do tend to turn their bottom towards their predator, or the thing they’re fighting off.”

A way to go
It appeared the joey, at the time of his rescue, was still reliant on his mother’s milk but likely survived on grass, although his carers say he was found underweight and dehydrated.

Rossco must weigh about 18 kilograms to undergo a soft-release program that would transport him to a new enclosure which will eventually allow him to wander into the wild on his own.

Dr Stannard says there will be several threats once Rossco is in the wild, like flooding, fires, sarcoptic mange and road traffic, but wombats are a resilient species.

“They’re pretty tough and they survive pretty well, even with big injuries on them,” she said.

“That’s the one thing you want to see in a young animal — that they’re progressing in weight and growing,”

“Once he gets big enough … he can go an establish his own little territory and hopefully make new little baby wombats.”

NSW Police says they have not received reports of native wildlife being shot in the area but encourage anyone with information relating to native wildlife being harmed or injured to contact their local police station or make a report through Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has been contacted for comment.