Lee Barwood

Paranormal, Mystery, and Environmental Fiction

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Gail Gipp, manager of the Australian Wildlife Hospital, and friend

Dr. Jon Hanger, head veterinarian at the Australian Wildlife Hospital, and friend

The Environment:
The Beat of Gaia's Heart


August 7, 2007


Managing Urgency

Welcome to the second issue of The Beat of Gaia's Heart, the newsletter about the other Web – the one that connects us all to each other and to the animals, the environment, and the Earth.

This month we’re featuring an interview with Gail Gipp, the manager of the Australian Wildlife Hospital. I’ve been “missing in action” on a number of e-forums this past month due to the beginning of travels to raise money for the Hospital, which treats koalas and other wildlife, from exotic to mundane. Its doctors are also doing groundbreaking research in diseases that are major threats to koalas, as well as pioneering treatments for severe injuries not just for koalas but for other species, too. The Hospital, only a few years old, has already outgrown its first home, and construction has just begun on a new building that will enable it to treat far more animals daily than its current capacity will allow.

That takes money. Koalas suffer terrible injuries from animal attacks and being hit by cars. They’re also being hit with chlamydia, a disease that takes a dreadful toll on them. Koalas have been my favorite animals since I was tiny, and that’s why sales of my new book, Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings, gives all royalties to the Hospital. Ancient Aboriginal Tales is available through Koala Jo Publishing
(www.koalajo.com), Borders Books (www.bordersstores.com), and Barnes & Noble (www.bn.com) – even Amazon (www.amazon.com)! But if you come to one of my signings, I’ll be happy to autograph a copy for you. We’ll also be handing out copies of the Hospital’s newsletter, so that people can join the Wildlife Warriors if they want to and contribute directly.

We have a lot of stops planned and a lot more in the works, so stay tuned to see where we’ll turn up next!

Gail Gipp: Managing Urgency

Imagine, for a moment, living at your workplace and being on call 24/7. To most people that would be an utter nightmare -- how many of us could go on in life doing that? But when you’re in the right job, doing work that you love, such a schedule is a challenge, not a torment.

Gail Gipp, manager of the Australian Wildlife Hospital, does exactly that, and it’s clear that she loves her work and her lifestyle. She is one busy woman, but from her bubbly conversation you can tell that she thrives on her demanding schedule. In the Hospital’s “busy season,” she sleeps very little, and is constantly on the go to care for the animals in her charge her love for them shines through her words. We were fortunate to speak with her.

How long have you been involved in wildlife rescue?
I started when I was 17, and have been doing it for 31 years. It started with an elderly lad who lived next door with joeys hanging around. I was always bringing home things to feed; it used to drive my parents nuts.

What did you do before coming to the Hospital?
I was the senior environment officer at Stradbroke Island. I did the education on the environment, for people to walk through the bush, and was explaining the plants and animals and why it’s so important that we retain the natural environment for our own health and the health of the island in particular.

What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is educating people. I don’t think there’s enough day-to-day education of the general public of the needs of wildlife and what’s happening to them out there. Most people are unaware that they’re suffering so badly.

What are your responsibilities as manager?
I look after the animals foremost, and see that all their needs are met. I’m living in the hospital; I work ten days and nine nights straight, and then have a couple of days off. My room is off the ICU [intensive care unit]. I have no privacy [she laughs], but it’s good that I’m here. So many of the animals are nocturnal, and of course there are the trauma cases. And I look after the staff, and make sure that the Hospital has enough equipment and what we need

What’s a typical day like, and how long is it?

You can never have a plan because you never know what will work through the door.

Six months of year, from January to June, life is relatively quiet. I start at 5 AM, and go through until 6 or 7 PM, depending on what comes in during the day. It’s the quietest time of year, because the animals aren’t breeding. I get woken up four to ten times a night with animals people drop off. From July to December, I don’t get to bed for three days – that’s when the majority of animals come in. One night I got nine koalas within six hours, all trauma cases. It’s a lot busier, and the animals in intensive care and on drips need pain medication. For six months I don’t sleep very much at all, and the other six months I try to sleep when I can.

Yesterday we had so many different species! We started at 5:30 AM and didn’t finish till nearly 8 PM. We saw everything from pelicans to snakes to koalas to kangaroos. We never know what’s coming in; it can vary greatly.

I do trauma work with animals – I stabilize trauma victims, prepare animals for surgery, change drips, administer medications, work with the staff, do training and counseling. I give a lot of advice to wildlife carers, internationally and in Australia; I teach at the University of Queensland and also do wildlife workshops for wildlife rehabilitation groups, not just in Queensland but in New South Wales and Victoria. I’m asked to speak at conferences on different things. I do a lot of that.

What’s the most frustrating thing about your work?
The most frustrating for me, on a personal level, is the cruelty that humans inflict on these animals. I don’t understand the mentality of it, particularly when it comes to domestic animals. If someone sees a native animal, a hundred cars may drive past it, but if it were a dog or a cat, every car would pull up to stop. People are so ignorant of our native animals. I don’t think they realize that they feel pain. But I think it’s changing – particularly in the last three years. People are starting to care, and become more environmentally aware.

What’s the most rewarding thing?
Getting something in that’s really, really critical and not expected to live, and being able to release them back into the wild. Especially when you get to monitor them and see they’re doing well out there – it’s the most amazing feeling.

Is there one part of the job that matters most to you? If so, what and why?
I love every aspect of this job, the good and the bad, because I think that even with the bad there’s good that comes out of it in the end. I’m getting to live my dream.

What is the Hospital’s biggest need?
A new hospital. This building was an old avocado packing shed and it’s really tiny, and now we have a lot of people and animals and equipment. It’s important for the new hospital for people to keep donating to help more animals, not just in Australia but worldwide. We want to help everywhere we can.

Do you have a favorite animal?
I like them all. No favorites. If I had one it would be orangutans – they fascinate me. But I love all animals. Reptiles, the works, everything.

When did you know you wanted to do this work?

I always knew this was what I wanted to do. I never remember not loving animals – in grade school I remember wanting to be a vet, but I got to high school and figured I didn’t like school. [Laughs] I always really loved being around animals more than people. I write a lot of caring books – how to look after koalas, platypus, all kinds of animals. I like to keep up to date with what’s happening, and teach others – and refresh my knowledge. The caring and rehabilitating community gets closed; sometimes they don’t want to share information [on caretaking], and I don’t want people repeating the mistakes of the past. To have as many people as possible know how to care for them, and have them survive after release, is really important. That’s one of my aims before I go.

We want [the Hospital] to be seen the same as Steve saw it – not necessarily the biggest, but the best for any animal we come in contact with. And we want to educate people and veterinarians, and always have an open door to enable people to get help when they need it for whatever animals they come in contact with.

Do you have one thing to say to people about animals?
Really think about where you choose to live, and what you choose to do in your environment, and remember that we’re not the only species. So many animals live where we want to live. Try to live in harmony with them, instead of ignoring their needs and their homes. We forget about all the small species. A tree might not be important to us, but could be the home to a hundred little things.

Summer – Who Said It Was Lazy?
Summer’s been a very busy time around here, what with launching the book tour, working on raising awareness of animal needs, and getting the word out that there’s lots you can do to stop global warming, even if you are only one person. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The Borders Books in Whitehall, PA kindly hosted me for a book signing and story hour, and I had loads of fun with the children who came. They were all very interested in the large koala that accompanied me, and sang along to “Waltzing Matilda,” “Kookaburra,” and more familiar tunes. Afterwards I signed copies of Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings and my environmental suspense/thriller, A Dream of Drowned Hollow, published by Double Dragon Publishing (www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-320-4).

Then I drove south to Hatboro, where I signed books and sold t-shirts and other koala gift items at SRA International. Then it was up to northern PA, to more bookstores.

Also in July, Koala Jo Publishing sent the first contribution from my book and from Koalas: Zen in Fur to the Hospital. The total was $1,624.99 – not bad for books only on sale since May 1! But of course we’re hoping to raise that total quickly.
Lee Barwood and koala friend, with harp, at Borders Books
in Whitehall, PA. The displays on the table are “patient
profiles” of various kinds of animals treated at the
Australian Wildlife Hospital.

Next week I’ll be heading up to Binghamton, NY, where I’ll be signing and selling books at the Teddy Bear Artists Invitational, or TBAI (www.tbai.org). TBAI is a teddy bear collector’s dream – wonderful artists are invited to come and display their bears (and other creatures), and the show itself is a fundraiser for the Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton. So one good cause is helping another. If you’re in the area, please stop in and introduce yourself! And check out the wonderful teddy bears while you’re there. You can also buy John Lamb’s new mystery novel, The False Hearted Teddy.

And on September 8, I’ll be signing books and raising funds at the Jersey shore, on Long Branch Day. After a morning walkathon with my friends, we’ll have a table where people can pick up not only both my books, also cool koala gifts.

Want to pledge for the Walkathon? All contributions go to the Australian Wildlife Hospital, and you can pledge as much or as little as you like. If you’re interested, e-mail me at lee@leebarwood.com and I will send you the pledge forms straight from the town of Long Branch. The koalas will be very grateful – and so will I.

There’s a wonderful set of children’s books I learned about just recently. While I’m going to be reviewing them soon, I can’t wait to tell you about them since I’ve already started the first one. They’re from Zumaya Publications (www.zumayapublications.com), and (from what I’ve seen so far) they’re wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated.

The series is called Green Heart, by author Marlies Bugman, and they’re set on Tasmania – a rare enough setting. The first book in the series is Kangaroo Dog, about a young boy’s encounter with a Tasmanian tiger, long thought to be extinct. Young Ben has to try to keep his beloved Aunt Steffi’s fiancé, a journalist with big ambitions, from revealing the creature’s existence and whereabouts, lest discovery drive it truly into extinction.

So far, the book is written with sympathy and insight, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Next month I’ll review it, and list the rest of the titles in the series.

Women’s Issues:
WIMN’s Voices

Feminist.com, filled with resources on everything from domestic violence to women-owned businesses

Australian Wildlife Hospital

Wildcare Australia

The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation, with local chapters in many coastal areas

Koala books at Koala Jo Publishing

Environmental strategies:
Live Earth

The Lazy Environmentalist

Clean Ocean Action, working to clean up NJ shores

Oregon Swap – a way to trade what you don’t need for what you do

Vegetarian/vegan eating:
Klassic Koalas: Vegetarian Delights Too Cute to Eat; Vegetarian and vegan recipes –
some of them free!

Other newsletters:
Bobbing Around, a potpourri of useful and valuable information

"Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.” – Madame de Stael

For more links, information, reviews, and suggestions, go to www.leebarwood.com. Or check out my blog on MySpace at www.myspace.com/leebarwood. See you next

Copyright 2007 by Lee Barwood

Selected Works

Love and death tread the boards at a haunted Victorian theater
Love can survive death -- but so can hate. The two collide in this haunted Ozarks tale of betrayal and heroism -- on both sides of the grave.
Australian wildlife images to stimulate creativity in children and adults alike
Vintage wildlife photos illustrate a children's story about koalas
Retellings of eight Australian Aboriginal tales, mostly focusing on the koala -- a powerful figure in Aboriginal lore
Gryphon Award-winning ecological fantasy novel, now available from Double Dragon Publishing (February 2006)
Volume I of The Ribbons of Power, this was Honor Book Award winner in Andre Norton's Gryphon Award competition
Volume II of The Ribbons of Power
A professor is murdered. Can the plot be unraveled?

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