Teneale Hayes (pronouns: she/her) is a wildlife and domestic vet nurse and passionate wildlife carer who now specializes in rehabilitation of flying foxes. Teneale’s journey within the wildlife space led her to try many different career options within the wildlife field and she has found a role that suits her passions, interests and supports her passion for wildlife care. Teneale shares some options for getting involved in wildlife care as well as her advice for taking care or wildlife carers!
Teneale’s lifelong passion for wildlife began at a young age. She first explored this passion through volunteering at a wildlife park when she was just 16 years old and doing work experience at a vet clinic. Despite being initially unsure about a career in veterinary care, her journey brought her back to this career path down the track.
When Teneale finished school and considered zoo keeping as a career option. Although she couldn’t secure the course she had hoped for, she enrolled in a Certificate ii and then iii at TAFE and began a series of work experience placements at Taronga Zoo and the Australian Reptile Park, working with various animals. Through this experience, Teneale realized zoo keeping wasn’t her passion – although she loved working with the animals, she wanted to pursue work with wildlife in rehabilitation.
This was when Teneale joined WIRES, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization where she began volunteering as a wildlife carer and was introduced to flying fox care. She explains –
“Eight years ago. I fell in love with a flying fox and I haven’t looked back since. And now I’ve been caring since then.”
Intrigued by the gentle nature and charm of flying foxes, Teneale’s connection with these remarkable creatures deepened over time. She transitioned from caring for young pups to adult flying foxes, dedicating six to seven years of her life to their welfare. Through wildlife care, Teneale found a career as a wildlife vet nurse that she could really resonate with. She explains –
“So, it’s been a long journey, but I finally found my purpose in life.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VET NURSE
As a vet nurse, Teneale’s daily life is dynamic. Her responsibilities include triaging wildlife that is brought into the clinic, assessing their injuries, providing necessary care, and ensuring they return to their carers promptly. With an influx of wildlife during spring and summer, Teneale’s experience and expertise is crucial in the triage process, determining the best course of action for each animal. She also undertakes specialized training to handle birds and bats, enriching her skill set.
In addition to her work with cats and dogs, the veterinary clinic where Teneale works collaborates with wildlife organizations like WIRES to provide comprehensive care for sick and injured wildlife. Her role as both a vet nurse and passionate wildlife advocate allows her to make a significant contribution to the well-being of animals.
TAKING CARE OF WILDLIFE CARERS
Teneale explains that the life of a wildlife carer can get extremely busy – this is a passion-motivated full-time and usually voluntary role (similar to being a parent!) and usually, other work needs to be fitted in around this commitment to pay the bills!
“It took me a while to balance, especially when I first started at the vet, because I was doing the wildlife care on the side, caring for the flying foxes.”
“I didn’t really take care of myself very well for a while there, but over the last year or two, I’ve definitely realized how important it is to manage self-care.”
For Teneale, this looks like taking naps where she can, scaling back when you need to (and accepting help and support from others) and taking 10-15min each morning for herself while she has her cup of tea.
“It’s definitely important to learn what works for you.”
Although it’s tempting to take on lots of animals for care – especially if you know there aren’t other options for care, Teneale says that respecting your limits is very important –
“And I think so many people, myself included, fall into the trap of feeling like they’re not doing enough, but in actual fact, taking a few less animals at a time means you’ll go for so much longer, like your sustainability within yourself and within your passions is just so much more tangible – and it’s better for the animal.”
There is a huge demand for more passionate people to train up as wildlife carers. Many people don’t realize that anyone can do this – you don’t need a degree or to pay to join up. To get involved in wildlife care, Teneale suggests joining local wildlife care groups such as WIRES. These organizations offer training and support to newcomers. For aspiring flying fox carers, vaccination against the Australian Lissa virus is necessary, requiring a few months of preparation. Organizations like WIRES typically cover the cost of vaccinations, making it accessible for volunteers.
Teneale’s message is clear: anyone passionate about wildlife should volunteer, gain hands-on experience, and find a local group that resonates with their interests. Through dedication and learning, one can make a meaningful contribution to the well-being of animals and the environment.
ADVICE FOR WORKING WITH WILDLIFE
Some of Teneale’s top advice for working with wildlife is to take the pressure off yourself around knowing what you want to do – and rather, embark on your journey of discovery. She explains –
“When you finish school, you don’t need to go straight into your dream career. I mean, I’m a prime example. I’m almost 35 and I’m about to finish my course and be qualified as a vet nurse. You don’t need to be 18 to discover your dream job, your purpose in life. Just take your time.”
Another important action to take is to try out different roles within the industry – volunteer to build your experiences and understanding of the reality of different roles to see what resonates for you. Teneale explains –
“My main advice is to volunteer – it helped me get into the vet nurse job I’m in today because I had such an extensive volunteer background. Even though I had never worked in the industry, the fact that I had done 10 plus years of volunteer work was a shoe in for me!”
“Once I’ve completed the qualification and been in the industry for a couple of years, it’ll be easier to take the next step and transition to a wildlife hospital rather than a domestic vet clinic.”
KEEP IN TOUCH
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