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Dural’s Best Kept Secret: The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

By Sophie Poredos

1 1 1 Dural’s Best Kept Secret: The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
The hills wildlife sanctuary team of dedicated volunteers

In the heart of Dural you’ll find a hidden paradise where wildlife conservationists Nat and Ben, along with their team of dedicated volunteers, rescue and rehabilitate injured animals.

The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary offers a 35-acre natural site with sprawling bushland, tucked away down Carters Road. Inside the big iron gates is a world-class rehabilitation facility for Australian wildlife, providing a home for rescued emus, dingoes and native birds.

Established in 1977 by Marjorie Wilson, it was previously known as the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative and has been protecting injured wildlife since its inception. Their passionate team of over 20 volunteers includes live-in Caretaker, Olivia Gillespie, professional dog trainer, Nat Conway, and resident wildlife vet, Dr Audrey Shen.

The backdrop of Berowra Valley National Park is phenomenal, as are their countless animals, each with varying degrees of personality. Upon arrival, I was greeted by some friendly surrendered dingoes, who were enjoying their new natural enclosure. Whilst they go out for walks 3-4 times a week, it was clear they were very excited to see some new faces.

Some other new friendly animals included three red-tailed black cockatoos, a threatened species of bird, though they can be spotted around the Hills. Casper, their leucistic kookaburra, was particularly vibrant as he proudly showed off his white plumage despite his reduced vision. The birds are interactive and can rest on people’s arms – though I’ve been warned to watch shoelaces around Casper!

Sanctuary manager and Dural local Ben Dessen, along with his brother Sam and a team of passionate volunteers have transformed the site over the past 10 years. Ben also has extensive experience in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. However, it was the 2019 and 2020 Black Summer Bush Fires that was the real catalyst for the project, as the community were desperate to find a sanctuary for injured animals.

Wildlife Story 3 Copy Dural’s Best Kept Secret: The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
The newly built dingo enclosure and its furry residents alongside volunteers

Currently, there is only one dedicated wildlife hospital in the Greater Sydney region, creating an increased demand for volunteer services such as WIRES. Ben and his team have been working alongside local MPs and are appealing to the State government to build a world-class wildlife hospital that would remedy the lack of medical care for injured wildlife in Sydney. He shared why this site would be the perfect opportunity to care for animals and his future ambitions:

“We have an amazing 35 acres of land, so close to Sydney which is so unique. We hope to create a centralised conservation and education hub, to help up-skill and train wildlife carers and veterinarians and support rehabilitation groups across NSW. We also hope to establish an emergency response team to support wildlife in times of crisis, which could be deployed during future natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.”

North Rocks local Nat Conway has been volunteering at the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary for a number of years, falling in love with animals in her role as a dog behaviourist: “We want the Hills community to know that there is a facility here that is doing this amazing rescue and rehabilitation work for native wildlife.

We only need one person to read this article and go ‘Wow! I would love to donate or sponsor a particular project at the sanctuary!’, because it is currently 100% volunteer run and funded entirely by our own fundraising initiatives.”

Wildlife Story 2 Copy Dural’s Best Kept Secret: The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
Ben and nat with their new rescue black cockatoo, byron.

The Education Centre on site also hosts a range of reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians, with my eyes being drawn to the tiniest Green Tree frogs. The facilities are used to train wildlife carers, as well as vets and vet nurses. The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary are currently seeking sponsorship to build an outdoor covered education space and amphitheatre.

They will also begin construction shortly of a specialised wombat, echidna and bandicoot rehabilitation enclosure, which has generously been funded by Linda Meumann, the owner of Calabash Kennels in Arcadia. Linda was so impressed by the work of the sanctuary after handing in an injured Tawny Frogmouth, that she offered to support their work.

The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is actively seeking corporate and philanthropic partners, to help continue building the vision and assisting native wildlife. The sanctuary is always in need of support from local skilled tradespeople, including carpenters, electricians, plumbers, landscapers and arborists.

You can contact Ben at [email protected] for more information or to offer your services to this very worthy cause. You can follow the sanctuary’s exciting progress, make a donation and meet some of the furry and feathery residents via the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary website and social media

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