Wildlife volunteers' mental health

La Trobe University research will support the mental health of wildlife volunteers, potentially reducing the incidence of traumatic stress and burnout experienced by those caring for injured or traumatised animals.

The project is part of a $1.14 million investment by Wildlife Victoria into volunteer services improvement, including developing a tailored mental health support framework for wildlife volunteers.

Wildlife Victoria’s CEO, Ms Lisa Palma, said it is common for rescuers to attend to wildlife emergencies where animals are suffering trauma, pain or abuse.

“Witnessing animals suffering is a regular experience for our volunteers. We need to do everything we can to support volunteers to remain mentally healthy,” Ms Palma said.

La Trobe University Research Fellow, Dr Vanessa Rohlf, said the project would investigate the unique stressors affecting wildlife volunteers, such as frequent exposure to potentially traumatic events.

“Mental health and wellbeing programs are not a one-size-fits-all, so we will delve into what wildlife volunteers experience, and how they process what they have seen or done as part of their work,” Dr Rohlf said.

“I congratulate Wildlife Victoria on recognising the unique stressors of this kind of work, and taking a leading role in building support mechanisms around their volunteers to reduce risk.”

Ms Palma said it is vitally important to have the right systems and programs in place to attract, retain and support wildlife volunteers given the increasing demand for Wildlife Victoria’s emergency response service.

“We have seen an 80 per cent growth in demand for our wildlife emergency response service over the last five years and expect demand will continue to escalate,” Ms Palma said.

“In addition to investing in mental health support, the volunteer services improvement program will actively recruit and train new volunteers, engage and upskill existing volunteers and continue to provide financial support through our annual grants program.”

Wildlife Victoria received more than 100,000 requests for help from the public and supported almost 90,000 native animals last year.

Ms Palma said volunteering creates a society that is better for everyone – humans and animals alike.

“This step in Wildlife Victoria’s commitment to volunteers recognises the significant contribution wildlife rescuers, transporters, carers and registered shelter operators make when it comes to helping wildlife in this state,” Ms Palma said.

Wildlife Victoria’s state-wide network of volunteers is critical to providing the Victorian community with a dedicated 24/7 wildlife emergency response service to assist sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. It has more than 1,000 registered volunteers throughout Victoria.

About Wildlife Victoria

  • Wildlife Victoria is a not for profit wildlife Emergency Response Service that has been operating for more than 35 years as an independent, not-for-profit organisation focussed on the welfare of Australia's unique wildlife.
  • In 2021, Wildlife Victoria’s Emergency Response Service received more than 100,000 requests for assistance and supported almost 90,000 sick, injured or orphaned animals.
  • Wildlife Victoria educates the community about wildlife, and helps the community manage wildlife incidents.
  • Wildlife Victoria advocates for wildlife whenever their welfare is under threat or compromised.

Media enquiries

La Trobe University Media Manager, Kate O’Connor on 0436 189 629 or k.o’connor@latrobe.edu.au

Wildlife Victoria’s media team on 0447 193 121 or media@wildlifevictoria.org.au