Story by: Gabriela
Pictures by: Tom
Cheryl called on Saturday afternoon and asked if I wanted to look after eight baby blue-tongues. Paul had picked them up from the vet in Lismore, where a member of the public had dropped off a female blue tongued skink that had been mauled to death by a dog. Apparently the babies had just dropped out of the body.
I decided to give it a go, although I was totally unprepared with no food nor heat lamp at home. Luckily, Marcie offered some insectivore and after a quick trip to Bunnings and the Ballina Pet Store, I had a lamp as well. Sue from Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers offered some very helpful advice on what to feed them and they really enjoyed their first meal of mashed bananas and raw egg mixed with insectivore. Their initial weight was between 9–14gms, not far off their birth weight. Sue suggested to keep them for about a week and then reassess the situation.
Unfortunately, one of the babies died on Monday morning and a closer inspection revealed a puncture wound to its belly. The other babies were all doing ok except for one, it didn’t put on as much weight as the others and looked quite skinny. A few warm hydrating baths and some separate feeding did the trick and it soon was putting on as much weight as the others.
To expose them to natural light the box was put outside during the day. I put old oven racks on top of the box to prevent birds from attacking. One day when Tom went to check on them he noticed a green tree snake wrapped around a chair about two meters from where the box stood on a table. No doubt the snake had smelled the skinks and was hoping for a meal (not sure it would have been able to swallow one as they were getting fat quickly). Well, we were a lot more cautious after that.
It was a delight to watch the babies sleep on the warmed up rocks or crawl over the bark obstacle course that also provided them with shelter. They were very keen to get out of that box and tried cliff hanging and struggling up vertical walls, but to no avail.
After one and a half weeks they weighed between 16-22gms and Sue suggested to release them. As there was no clue to where the mother had been found Cheryl suggested to release them at my place. We have spotted blue and pink tongued lizards on our property before, so it seemed a good place for them. After a last meal to fill their bellies they were released into a thicket of Lantana, which offers good protection from predatory birds. I hope a lot of them will make it into adulthood and I will be checking the release site regularly and hope to catch a glimpse of them.