The Derby Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre assists injured and orphaned animals to have a second chance at life. Hailey lived and volunteered on site for nine months and has shared the inside scoop on release missions.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Please note! Wild animals should never be touched, picked up, fed or approached by someone unless they are a trained wildlife handler. Please observe and enjoy wild animals from a safe and undisturbing distance.


Gunna the Red kangaroo relaxing at Derby Native Wildlife Sanctuary

Where the magic happens

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit the Kimberley region of Western Australia, then you’ll know it’s teeming with wildlife. But did you know that there’s a place where injured and orphaned animals are given a second chance at life?

Deep in the heart of the Kimberley is Derby Native Wildlife, a not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation centre run by Heidi and Ray Sampey. The pair rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife such as Red kangaroos, Agile wallabies, Antiloipine wallaroos, possums, birds, and more.


Ray and Heidi releasing Loui the Red kangaroo

A Kangaroo’s Journey to Rehabilitation

Joeys come into care after being hit by cars travelling to Broome or along the Gibb River Road. When mother’s are killed by hunters, joeys are sometimes found still alive inside the pouch.

After roos are rescued, they’re brought back to the Derby Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where they’re given medical care, including antibiotics, casts, hydration fluids, and nourishment by volunteers like me before being slowly reintroduced into the wild.


Twinkle, an Agile wallaby in care

A Day in the Life of a Volunteer

My day at the Derby Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre starts as the sun peeks above the horizon. First off the ranks to be fed are the birds, followed by the orphaned cows, who moo at me to request their breakfast before I’ve even had my coffee! This part of the routine changes often, fully dependent on the current rescues in the centre.

With the most vocal animals now fed, I enter the camp-style living room, where the youngest joeys eagerly await their breakfast bottles in portable-cots and the humidity-crib. Each of the joeys in here requires a certain amount of formula per day – based on their age and weight – to continue growing as they should if they were still being fed by their mum.


Hunter the Red kangaroo (left) and Didge the Nailtail wallaby (right)


I give the joeys their morning milk, a cuddle, and a bum-wipe, just like their mum would usually do. Depending on how old they are, I either put them back in a heated pouch or take them outside to practise getting in and out of cotton pouches. At first, they’re not very enthusiastic about being out of the pouch, but this training is important for building their muscles and boosting their confidence.

Next, I move on to feed the older marsupials that we’ve relocated to the outdoor enclosures. Even though these joeys have made the move outside and have started eating solid food, they still receive a bottle, just like they would if they were getting milk from their mums in the wild. Most mornings these joeys will chase me down for their morning bottle, often with a playful kick or two thrown in!


Rusty the Red kangaroo


After this, I clean all the enclosures and top up dry food and water. The number of feeds I give out per day depends on the age and nutritional needs of the animal in care. Extremely young wildlife require a bottle-feed every few hours, including at night.

Between feeds, I find time to start new projects around the sanctuary, such as building and expanding new enclosures, installing irrigation in the veggie gardens, and going on rescue missions. A massive part of volunteering at Derby Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is getting to experience the Kimberley and everything this extremely rugged landscape has to offer.

Read more: I Spent Some Quoll-ity Time Volunteering on a Nature Reserve

Rehabilitated and Ready for Release

At a secret location, deep within the Kimberley, is the release point for the Red kangaroos. They’re only brought here for release when they no longer require milk for nutrition, can eat solid food, and are capable of living outside with reduced human contact. We  release them when the seasons align – when flooding has eased but there are still ample water and food sources available.

Being part of a release is a special experience. Most of these kangaroos come into care young and malnourished, and are brought to release when they’re big, strong, and confident enough to start their life as part of a mob in the wild.

As well as countless releases of other native animals – including wallabies, native birds, and flying foxes – Derby Native Wildlife has successfully rehabilitated and released 30 Red kangaroos back into the Kimberley region to help rebuild declining wild populations.

As a volunteer at Derby Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre you can make a lasting contribution to both present and future populations of our native animals while experiencing the wonders of the Kimberley.

Want to get involved? Head to the Derby Native Wildlife website.

Gunna the Red kangaroo being released