Wildlife Nurse, Amy De Boer

We catch up with local veterinary nurse and photographer Amy De Boer. From working with orangutans in Sumatra to saving the animals in our own back yard, Amy has dedicated her life to wildlife. We sit down with her to get the scoop on what happens in the wild, wild world of a veterinary nurse. 

What came first photography or veterinary medicine? 
Both. I’ve always done photography, I studied it at school and I did animal studies as well. I just loved them both so I couldn't choose.

So which one is full time?
They are both full time! I’m just so busy, I have no idea why I do this to myself, but I love it! It’s nice because sometimes I get to combine them. I’ll bring my camera to work and take shots of the animals for the work website. 


What made you want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine?
I wanted to help animals and save them. Working at the hospital is great because I get to save them everyday. 


Have you ever worked at a vet’s office or have you always worked at a hospital?
Always at a hospital (Currumbin Wildlife Hospital). That was my first veterinary nursing job, and I’m still there. I used to be a zoo keeper and moved from zoo keeping into veterinary nursing about 2.5 years ago.


How did you end up at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital?
They’ve got the hospital for wildlife so it was a good fit, but I work at Sea World too. I’ve been working with animals for over 10 years now. Sea World gets a lot of rescued seals and dolphins, but it’s not as high volume as what Currumbin gets. Currumbin get’s 8,000+ animals every year and rising. The amount of development on the Gold Coast causing habitat destruction is insane, so the amount of animals coming into the hospital is getting bigger ever year. 


What degree did you have to get to be able to become a veterinary nurse?
It’s a certificate at TAFE, but I got a specialised one for wildlife nursing. 


What is your day at the Hospital like?
You never know what to expect! One day you might only get two or three animals come in and the next day you might get 50! 


Do you find there is a specific type of animal that comes in the most frequently?
Yes, generally in springtime we get baby birds and right now we are getting a lot of koalas. It’s koala season, so they are coming down from the trees looking for new places to feed or for mates and they are getting attacked by dogs or hit by cars. We see about 50 koalas a month on average.


What’s your favourite part of your job?
Releasing animals that have healed. It’s great to be able to see a sick animal get better and then let it back into the wild.


Are there any problems releasing them back into the wild?
They usually take right to it. The only thing that can be a bit awkward is when their habitat has been destroyed and you have to release them in a new area. And to relocate them we have to get government permits to do so. 


Do you get to take any of the animals home to care for them?
I always take the baby opossums home. The other week I had a baby flying fox and a baby opossum. I was up every 3 hours feeding them! 


Do you get attached to the animals easily?
No, you have to stop yourself from getting attached because you know where they belong is out in the wild. 


How many pets do you have?
I have a snake at home, a carpet python and I’ve got a little rescue budgie. 


Has your work taken you to any foreign or exotic places?
I go to Sumatra every year to work with the orangutans. I’ve been going for the last 5 years. I fell in love with orangutans when I was at school, so I thought to myself “I have to go there to work!” So I worked really hard to be able to go and went for the first time in 2010 and I worked there for 3 months. It was a dream come true! Since then I’ve been going back every year. Last year I worked at Sumatra Orangutang Project and did a bit of vet nursing for them. 


Have you ever been in a dangerous situation working with any of the animals?
Yeah, I’ve been bitten a lot of times! I’ve been bitten by an orangutan and chased by koalas. 


What animal at the park do you find most interesting and why?
I have a soft spot for koalas. They are just so unique and weird, they are amazing. Scientifically it’s so fascinating how they work. With what they eat they shouldn't be alive, but they are; they fall out of trees all the time and just keep going! But koalas are on a really hard road at the moment and no one really seems to be aware. 


Why are they on a hard road?
They are all dying. With all of the habitat destruction, their numbers are decreasing rapidly. If we want them to be around for our future generations, we will have to do something about it. They are a lot more endangered than we think they are.


What do you think people should know about our local wildlife?
Our animals are in trouble and we need to help them. Bring any injured animals into Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. We need to plant more trees and we need to preserve what we’ve got left. 


Where is your career headed?
I would like to expand my photography business and eventually build a photography studio. I’d like to build on a large property where I can also secure some bushland to have a bit of habitat to preserve for the wildlife.


What made you want to take up photography?
I’ve just always loved it. Even as a little kid I always had a camera with me.


Where do you like to get a cup of coffee or tea?
I really like The Yard in Nobby’s Beach.


How about dinner?
The Greenhouse Canteen in Miami, it’s so yummy! 


Outdoorsy spot?
Currumbin creek and Currumbin Rockpools.

For more information on the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital click here.

By Marleigh Kelly