A prickly patient

Sticking his best beak forward was not a wise idea for George the echidna, who recently ended up with a fractured beak near the town of St George, Queensland.

But thanks to a kind rescuer and the staff at the UQ Vets Small Animal Hospital at the School of Veterinary Science, George has made a full recovery and is ready to defend his territory.

Veterinary nurse Rebecca de Gier said a good samaritan had found George rolled up in a ball by the roadside and looking poorly.

“Luckily for George, the gentleman had the presence of mind, commitment, passion and kindness to animals to drive five hours to bring him to us for a check up,” Ms de Gier said.

“George was X-rayed and provided with pain relief, and had a fracture in his beak stabilised.”

George received world-class attention from the hospital’s avian and exotics team, including Associate Professor Dr Bob Doneley, veterinary intern Dr Zoe Anastassiadis and Ms de Gier.

“Vehicle accidents are the number one cause of damage to echidna beaks that we see,” Dr Doneley said.

“It’s a problem because echidnas need their beaks to eat.

“They have a 15cm long tongue which is housed in the beak, which is about 7cm long.

“They roll out the sticky tongue to catch their food.

As with most wildlife patients, staff minimised human contact and kept George in a separate wildlife enclosure, where he was fed his favourite termites to help him in his recovery.

“He is doing well now, which was great news for his rescuer who rang every day to check on his progress,” Ms de Gier said.

“All in all, he’s travelled about 40 hours to look after him.

“This gentleman collected George from UQ at the start of Be Kind to Animals Week, and returned him to the area he was found, which is the best possible outcome.

“George can now look after his lady echidnas and keep the other males at bay.”

The Veterinary School receives no government funding for wildlife care, relying on community support through the Wildlife Emergency Care Fund.

“We are always grateful for donations to care for our native animals,” Dr Doneley said.

Click here to donate.