In a dusty car park in Darwin’s rural area, a handover is about to take place.
“Got a wedge-tailed eagle come in last night from Corroborree,” wildlife carer Warren Taylor tells Nelson Tinoco, a young ranger from the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation.
“Been hit by a vehicle. The car travelling behind saw the incident and picked it up.”
Nelson, who’s training to become a wildlife rescuer, is here to take the injured bird to the vet for an urgent check-up.
So far he’s only handled small reptiles and a pet cockatoo. Dealing with Australia’s largest bird of prey is a whole new level.
“First time I’ve ever held a big bird like that,” he says as he carefully unwraps the towel covering the dazed eagle.
Ranger Nelson Tinoco is one of 14 Larrakia Nation rangers learning about handling injured animals. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)
“We have to be careful just in case it has any broken bones. If we push too hard it’s going to be stressed. Don’t want to make any more injuries.”
Nelson is one of 14 Larrakia Nation rangers who’ve teamed up with the Darwin Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about handling injured animals.
“We are just seeing a lot of our wildlife disappear,” says Larrakia Nation ranger coordinator Donna Jackson.
“I used to do wildlife rescue at Parks [and Wild Life NT]. It was something I wanted our ranger group to get into.”
“It really just takes a few times to do it and then you get used to how to handle them.”
An hour later, the injured eagle is undergoing an assessment at the Parap Veterinary Hospital.
Nelson holds the bird as Susan Gurry stretches out its wings, checking for swelling and breaks.
Nelson Tinoco takes the injured bird to Darwin vet Susan Gurry for an urgent examination. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)
“I think we are free of fractures, which is fantastic news,” Dr Gurry says.
“He’s obviously still quite dopey so we might still have some concussion.
“I think a little time and TLC will see him making a full recovery.”
Wedge-tailed eagles are Australia’s largest bird of prey but are increasingly victims of fast-travelling cars on NT roads. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)
Ally Szyc, who works at the Darwin Wildlife Sanctuary and has been overseeing Nelson’s training, is thrilled with the prognosis.
“A lot of what we do working with wildlife is pretty heartbreaking so cases like this are particularly special,” she says
“To have the great news from the vet that he will have a full recovery is special.”
Two weeks later, the wedge-tailed eagle is released near the vast wetlands of Kakadu.
For Larrakia Nation’s Donna Jackson, it’s a success story she hopes can be replicated over the coming years.
“Just by being involved in this process, we’ve just created another five or 10 wildlife rescuers for Darwin,” she said.