AFTER the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report found gender parity was over 200 years' away, International Women's Day organisers themed this year's event as #PressforProgress.

According to organisers "there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress", in a bid to achieve equal standing between man and woman.

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International Women's Day is about more than achieving gender equality, in Australia this year's theme is "leave no woman behind", highlighting the role women play in humanitarian and disaster planning and response.

But each woman's story is important and is why Life & Style chose to highlight the work of local wildlife heroes Natalie Richardson and Angela Bell, who are fighting for those animals who can't speak up for themselves.

This Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast duo work tirelessly and voluntarily to strive for a better future for our local wildlife through care, rescue and community education.

Angela Bell and Natalie Richardson.
Angela Bell and Natalie Richardson. JOY BUTLER

Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast is an entirely voluntary service providing rescue and care for native mammals, birds and reptiles, including sea turtles and sea snakes.

With help from Angela, Natalie founded Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast about four years ago, following in her mother Valerie Richardson's footsteps.

"My mum was doing wildlife care before she had me, which is 40 years ago... so I have literally grown up with it."

Today, the RSPCA, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services and Marine Parks recognise the organisation for the rescue of local wildlife, making Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast the first phone call people should make when they discover sick or injured wildlife.

"When people phone RSPCA or Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, often the request filtered down to Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast anyway," Angela said.

She said, where necessary, they keep the relevant authorities informed of each rescue made.

"Our priority is the animal and we have to make sure we're doing the right thing by the animal both ethically and legally."

Angela said out of all the work they do, the rescue of sea turtles and sea snakes were the toughest, with one of the biggest misconceptions was keeping the animal wet.

 

"Everybody assumes that because it's a turtle, that it's come from the water, it has to be kept wet, it's actually to their detriment," she said.

"If you come across a turtle that's been injured, particularly from a propeller strike, if they have an open wound, do not put water over it.

"Turtles do breathe and they breathe quite well out of the water.

"When a turtle is found stranded on a beach, a lot of people automatically assume that they have to push it back out to the water.

"It's a huge no-no - just give us a call and we'll bring it in.

"There is usually a reason why they're there and that's the same for sea snakes.

"Our sea snakes are in a lot of trouble at the moment and they're not as commonly found as say our turtles."

Natalie said they were in danger due to temperature change and pollution, and it was more important now than ever to report them.

"They're like the sea turtles," she said.

"People have a terrible habit of getting them and shoving them back in the water because they think it's the right thing.

"But they're up there for a reason.

"Sometimes it's just purely exhaustion or what have you, we always suggest to people, they call and get some advice before touching them."

Angela said there was more risk when it came to rescuing sea snakes, particularly because they're highly venomous, and people should just phone when they come across one - dead or alive.

"We're encouraging people to report dead ones, sea snakes and turtles, because we can still get a lot of data from dead animals."

Angela said sometimes people, although they may have the best of intentions, might actually be causing more harm than good.

"And it's not because of malicious intent, it's lack of education and training.

"Don't DIY it, don't google it, call us.

"Wildlife rescue and care brings with it an incredible emotional struggle, for a number of reasons.

"However, the most difficult part is when you know a particular animal could have been saved, but because someone has kept it... it has to be euthanised.

"If they have a genuine interest and passion, then become a carer."

Angela said people who wanted to help could courier animals either locally or to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital at the Sunshine Coast and occasionally to Brisbane.

"We're fortunate to have Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and we transport wildlife, particularly sea turtles, down there," she said.

"If we're lucky, depending on what is wrong with the turtle, they will come back for release.

"We've had some really great successes and that can be the result of a number of things, certainly team work, members of the public calling us ASAP... and then volunteers."

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Natalie said other ways to help was via donations of fuel or food vouchers.

"People can either provide vouchers for the produce places where we get our bird food and supplies from, or the butchers we get the meat from."

For more information visit their Facebook page, or to report sick or injured wildlife, phone 4121 3146, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.



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