By Richard Bruinsma
Australians should perhaps feel ashamed for turning their backs ideologically and financially on the nation’s endangered eagles, falcons, hawks and other raptors.
While donations flow to initiatives protecting koalas, kangaroos and many cute marsupials, majestic but fierce birds of prey are very much on their own to battle the threat of extinction and loss of habitat from urbanisation.
Maleny couple Bert and Jaquline Fraser have committed the past 20 years to caring for injured and unwell birds of prey – they have even surrendered their local lounge room to an injured Wedge Tail Eagle named Lucy, to aid her recuperation.
They had for many years tried to generate support for the plight of the raptors from the state and federal government – even hosting visits from environment ministers – and also from the public, but it has so far amounted to nothing.
“It breaks my heart, it’s sad, because to be perfectly frank, Australians should know better,” Mr Fraser said.
“If they can cuddle something – like a baby koala or a kangaroo – the public loves that, but you can’t cuddle something like these guys.
“They’ll give lots of money if it’s a koala or a ring tail possum, but for these guys they don’t give any money.”
The couple has forged ahead with their operation regardless.
Mr Fraser said urban development was the biggest threat to raptors by reducing their habitat.
“These guys have just as many rights as you and I have, and we come in and destroy their habitat, but we just don’t do anything about it,” he explained.
“As soon as humans move into an area, we just demolish everything, there’s nothing left for them. Some of those big trees – some over 100 years old with hollows in them – down they go and there goes another home for the birds.
“Most of the places don’t exist anymore, the bulldozers have gone through, the developers are very destructive.”
Mr and Mrs Fraser have devoted a house to the raptors, with Lucy joined by hawks, a kestrel, owls and other needy birds.
The couple responds to phone calls from all over the region, from people who have found injured or sick raptors.
Unfortunately, many of the birds are too ill to recover, but for those who are, they have the Frasers to offer them hope.
One of their current patients, a Pacific Bara, a type of hawk, is well on the way to recovery from mites that burrowed into its face and caused a crusty growth over one eye.
Meantime, a Nan Keen Kestrel that was found “as thin as a stick” and covered in lice after a run in with a truck is almost back to full health.
And another hawk rebuilds its strength by chowing down on a healthy meat meal in the comfort of this makeshift raptor hospital.
“Most are hit by cars, unfortunately,” Mr Fraser said. “Some of them, young ones, have left the nest but they’re not going so well, they come in here for care and we look after them.”
The couple has cared for the birds ever since a lone lorikeet flew into their house in the 1990s. They took it to a vet, and their love of caring for the birds has continued from there.
They hope political leaders will someday commit to supporting the birds of prey – before it’s too late.
“Governments don’t want to know; they’re totally blind to it,” Mr Fraser said.
“It’s really not that hard – they’ve got the money, they’ve got the land, build a facility and take it from there.
“You can have all the environment you want, but if the birds are gone they’re not coming back.”
Photo caption: Australia’s eagles, hawks and falcons are in decline and get very little support from Australian residents and the government. Pictured is Lucy, an Australian Wedge Tail Eagle, with a wingspan of around 2.5metres, who is resting up at a property owned by wildlife carers Bert and Jaquline Fraser.