Is that a possum in your handbag?

Sarah Swain, Manly Daily

Meet the wildlife heroes answering the cries for help of 15,000 animals a year on the northern beaches

ONE takes possums to the hairdresser in her handbag and another drove for seven hours to save dying bats.

One jumps into her car at all hours of the day or night to answer calls for help via Facebook.

And without this army of dedicated volunteers, the wildlife of Sydney’s northern beaches would have nobody to turn to when becoming injured, sick, or lost.

They’re the carers for Sydney Wildlife.

Orphaned female baby Brushtail Possum Luna is under the care of Sydney Wildlife volunteer Lorraine Woodward, at her Ingleside home. Picture: Troy Snook

With the same dedication of the better-known WIRES, also founded on the peninsula, the organisation will mark its 20th anniversary next year.

Adrina Selles, 58, of Dee Why, who has been involved for four years, even has kangaroos hanging in her laundry.

Baby kangaroo, Jewel, whose mother was shot is being cared for by a Dee Why wildlife volunteer.

She fashions fleecy “pouches” for the creatures by sewing up the arms of bodywarmers and hooking them to coathangers.

“I saw a notice for the carers course, I went along and I thought, ‘This is really good’,” she said.

Reptiles, snakes, possums, lorikeets, sugar gliders, bats and possums — she has cared for them all with the help of her husband Alf.

Luckily, she works from home. But sometimes she does have to keep a tiny baby close.

“I’ve taken them to the hairdressers. I’ve had possums in my handbag,” she said, laughing.

Lynleigh Greig pictured with a rescued Diamond Python. Picture: Braden Fastier

Joey Luna, whose mother was shot is being cared for by Adrina Selles.

As reported in the Manly Daily , she is caring for Jewel, a joey who arrived via a vets in a grocery bag, after her mother was shot out west. She is now doing well.

Meanwhile, in Elanora Heights, there is a wildlife pioneer.

If animal guru Lynleigh Greig’s not out darting wallabies lost in suburbia — she has a licence — she is heading to check a dead kangaroo on the Wakehurst Parkway. They often have young who survive and the team should be called if you hit one.

Sonja Elwood — with a blue tongue lizard being rehabilitated — is one of the founding members of Sydney Wildlife, which started in 1997.

Mrs Greig is often called to action via Facebook group Northern Beaches Pets by locals who need her help — and her daughter Kayleigh, 13, is a dedicated wildlife campaigner, too.

Mrs Greig said helping was not simply about loving animals.

“I think there is a difference between people who just want to cuddle cute animals and those who would literally put their lives on the line to save an animal in danger,” she said.

“I have been out to rescue a brown snake at 10pm — which was caught in netting and scared to death and suffering — and then been awake two hours later to feed baby ringtails.

“And then called out to a wallaby at 7am that’d been hit by a car.”


How to check roadkill such as wallabies, possums and kangaroos for babies — which often survive.

Mrs Greig said most situations on the beaches could be put down to humans — such as a loss of habitat.

But it is powerlines that are dangerous to the bats Sarah Thorpe, 25, and mother Tiere care for.

Sarah Thorpe with bats Willow and Sandy, who are in her care.

When a mother bat lands on one she is usually killed but the baby, which is often hanging on, will survive.

Sarah Thorpe, who is training to become a vet, has five of the creatures at home and, with them getting through 2kg of fruit a day, it is an expensive job.

Sarah Thorpe with Rosie.

The Narrabeen pair once drove almost seven hours to and from Casino in northern NSW to rescue 200 baby bats after hundreds of their parents were killed during a heatwave.

And she admitted that looking after them had taken over her life.

Sonja Elwood is caring for a turtle with a broken shell. The message on the shell reads ‘please keep me dry.’

“I am still single,” she said, with a laugh. “I’d much rather go home and feed a baby kangaroo or bats.”

Lorraine Woodward, 55, of Ingleside, is “mum” to three- month-old ringtail possum Luna, after its mother became sick and had to be put to sleep.

She will be released in a few months when she is strong enough, which Mrs Woodward said was the most rewarding part of the job.

Sydney Wildlife volunteer Lynleigh Greig with Kori the Swamp Wallaby, who was rescued from the pouch of his dead mother, who was hit by a car at Terrey Hills.

Jewel the joey kangaroo, who ended up at Sydney Wildlife after somebody tried to care for her- without knowing how. She ended up at a vet’s in a carrier bag.


If you see a sick or injured animal contact WIRES on 1300 094 737 or Sydney Wildlife on 02 9413 4300.

For details on carer courses visit or

An appeal to buy an animal ambulance to help native wildlife hit by cars has been launched, with a fundraiser planned for October 9 in Bayview.

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