A second chance at life

FAMILY FRIEND: Tawny owl Camo lives in the Hodgens residence after he was found near a tree.

By Raquel Mustillo

BATHTIME at the Hodgens residence has been shorter than usual this week as the Millicent family shares their tub with a new two-legged friend.

After being found off the coast of Cape Jaffa with serious injuries more than a week ago, little penguin Sticky Beak is on track of make a full recovery.

“When I first got him, he was very small and thin, he only weighed 540g and penguins his age are supposed to weigh over 1.1kg,” wildlife carer Kat Hodgens said.

“He also had a broken beak which was really concerning, but I am in talks with my local dentist clinic to rebuild the beak.

“Now, he is doing really well and enjoys pilchards and squid four times a day.

“He has put on 130g in five days which is great.”

The penguin is among dozens of injured, sick unwanted animals given a second chance at life by Ms Hodgens, husband Jake and daughter Letty.

The Hodgens’ backyard houses the Second Chance Sanctuary, which provides refuge and rehabilitation to domestic and wild animals.

“We have a tawny owl named Camo who had fallen out of a tree,” she said.

“Camo was so small when we first got it, but now he is a healthy size and lives in the house with us.

“He is really friendly with our dog and very well behaved, after he eats, he will sit on the bin to use the toilet.”

Almost 90 animals ranging from kangaroos, emus, owls, galahs and a sheltland pony currently coexist with the family’s dog, cat, chickens and geese.

Ms Hodgens said the sanctuary was open to all new intakes and had previously rescued and rehabilitated possums, turtles and bird species.

“If we can help an animal, we will,” she said.

“We have had turtles which have outgrown their tank and we also get animals which have been left by people who have died.

“People will bring us kittens which have been abandoned and we will rehome them.

“We have recently finished our wombat enclosure and are waiting for a permit which will allow us to look after wombats.”

Ms Hodgens said the not-for-profit sanctuary was buoyed by donations, which helped offset the family’s $150 a week spend on animal feed.

She said the sanctuary recently opened its gates to the public in an effort to raise funds and generated $450 in four hours.

“It was really successful and I would like to do it on a more regular basis to raise money and also let people come and see animals they probably don’t regularly see,” Ms Hodgens said.

“I’m not part of an organisation and things like vet bills are pretty expensive – the penguin alone cost $74 to check it out.

“But there are a lot of great people and businesses who either donate things like food or equipment or sell it to me at cost price and don’t make a profit.

“The town and community support is the best thing and we wouldn’t be able to do it without everyone’s help.”

While expansion is currently in the works, Ms Hodgens said her main priority was to ensure the little penguin would successfully be rehabilitated.

“I have talked to Sea World and the Melbourne Aquarium about Sticky Beak’s situation and everyone there has been really helpful,” she said.

“The dentists are really excited about potentially rebuilding the beak and helping the penguin.

“It’s a great feeling when an animal that has been rescued is able to walk or see properly again.

“I think the animals appreciate the second chance at life.”