Luke loves to help animals

Luke Williams with the rescued emu at West Hoxton.
Luke Williams with the rescued emu at West Hoxton.

It had to be a mistake. A misidentification from a member of the public. Or so WIRES volunteer Luke Williams thought.

"I was on my way back home to fill out some reports after dropping a brushtail possum to Canley Heights Vet for assessment and I got a call there was an emu in West Hoxton and I had a chuckle because it would be highly unlikely out this way. I told the call centre I highly doubt it's an emu," he said.

"We get swamp wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos and wallaroos in the Liverpool area - but an emu? But when I arrived, four police vehicles were travelling behind an emu."

The memorable but "highly stressful" rescue lasted more than four hours in the February heat as Mr Williams - who is the Avian Coordinator for the Cumberland Branch of WIRES - had to keep the "beautiful creature" calm (and navigate the school traffic) while they waited for a special response team from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to attend and take it to Zambi Native Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rescuing animals is not something new for the Bundjalung man from Horningsea Park, who grew up in Campbelltown.

Luke Williams with a swamp wallaby.

Luke Williams with a swamp wallaby.

Mr Williams and his team have received more than 1800 calls for assistance and released more than 1150 rescue animals back into the wild in the past two years.

He is the first point of contact for people reporting injured birds in south- west Sydney area. From ducks, tawny frogmouths and owls to rainbow lorikeets, cockatoos and magpies. If you can name a bird species that nests in Sydney's west, he's helped identify and care for it.

Recently he spent an hour trying to capture a male wallaroo hopping near the Elizabeth Drive and Hume Highway intersection before it was found in nearby apartment complex.

But the 42- year-olds affinity for animals started long before he started with WIRES three years ago.

"Even as a young boy, I was always finding animals, injured or sick like blue-tongue lizards and the occasional duckling and cockatoo and my parents would tell me 'you can't keep them in the house, they need to go back to the wild'. My folks were always driving me to the vet to drop off animals and I always had an interest in looking after them," he said.

"I always had it instilled into me if animals are injured, they need treatment and to take them to to a vet.

"I love being able to help nurture and rehabilitate our animals, and I love seeing them being released, after they've been in care. It's very rewarding to see their transformation. 90 per cent of the time the animals are lost and they don't know how to get back out to where they came from when they enter a suburban area and other times they are needing help because they are injured."

Without the support of WIRES' Cumberland Branch's 86 members and partnerships with local veterinary clinics - including their main one at Canley Heights - Mr Williams says their work wouldn't be possible.

Holsworthy Melanie Gibbons MP said volunteer-driven organisations are the "backbone" of communities.

"Groups likes WIRES contribute so much and play a vital support role not only protecting our wildlife, but improving people's wellbeing too by creating the connections so necessary to building our communities," Ms Gibbons said.

Like the animals he cares for, Mr Williams has had his own ups and downs over the past 24 months, losing his job to COVID-19. However, recently through his work with WIRES he gained full-time employment at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital and still helps coordinate rescues for WIRES and train new members.