The non-human animal deaths and injuries that result from collisions with motor vehicles are known colloquially as roadkill, and often lead to individuals from various taxa being orphaned. The complexities of multiple spatial and temporal variables in the available data on Australian roadkill and the scale of orphaning and injury make statistical analysis difficult. However, data that offer proxy measures of the roadkill problem suggest a conservative estimate of 4 million Australian mammalian roadkill per year. Also, Australian native mammals are mainly marsupial, so female casualties can have surviving young in their pouches, producing an estimated 560 000 orphans per year. A conservative estimate is that up to 50 000 of these are rescued, rehabilitated and released by volunteer wildlife carers. These roadkill-associated orphans are in addition to those produced by other anthropogenic and natural events and the injured adult animals in the care of volunteers. In accepting total responsibility for rescued animals, wildlife carers face many demands. Their knowledge base can require days of initial instruction with the need for continual updates, and their physical abilities and personal health can be tested by sleepless nights, demanding manual tasks and zoonoses. This review article explores the impact of this commitment and conservatively estimates carers’ financial input to raise one joey at approximately $2000 a year, and their time input at 1000 h, equating to $31 000 per year, applying a dollar value of $31 per hour. It categorises relevant types of grief associated with hand-rearing orphans and rehabilitating injured animals, and suggests that wildlife carers most likely experience many types of grief but are also susceptible to burn-out through compassion fatigue. A perceived lack of understanding, empathy and appreciation for their work by government can add to the stressors they face. Volunteering is declining in Australia at 1% per year, social capital is eroding and the human population is aging, while the number of injured and orphaned animals is increasing. Wildlife carers are a strategic national asset, and they need to be acknowledged and supported if their health and the public service they provide is not to be compromised.
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Vol. 45 • No. 2