Animal rescuer Kate Triska recycles old furniture and play equipment into rescued wildlife enclosures

Kate Triska loves old broken furniture.

Where one might see waste for curbside collection, Kate sees a DIY recycling project.

Kate, from Girraween on the rural outskirts of Darwin, is a zookeeper and in her spare time volunteers as a wildlife rescuer.

She has turned her two-hectare property into a homemade sanctuary for the animals she rescues, housing them in enclosures made from salvaged materials.

“People call and say they’ve harmed or harmed wild animals and we put it on Facebook and whoever’s closest goes [to rescue them]“, said Kate.

Currently it houses rescued sugar gliders, a bird chick, wallabies, a snake, and possums in old swings and cupboards.

The 34-year-old also shelters guinea fowl, frogs, a dog, chickens and a retired racehorse.

An agile wallaby rescued in its sleeping bag.(ABC Radio Darwin: Conor Byrne)
Kate has turned a disused swing into an animal enclosure.(Provided: Kate Triska)

A swing no more

Kate is regularly on the lookout for disused materials to recycle into wildlife enclosures.

“Sometimes I’ll pick up stuff from the tip shop or neighboring properties,” she says.

One of its enclosures was fashioned from a garden swing.

Kate removed the swing equipment and replaced them with branches, then covered it with pewter and mesh.

A third of the enclosure is covered with sheet metal roofing to protect the animals from the harsh elements of the Northern Territory.

She also used excess roof purlins from a construction site for the door and base frames.

“Possums start out in a very small pouch. As they get bigger, I’ll introduce them to the big tree branch in my living room,” Kate explains.

“And then when they’re old enough to come out, I’ll put them in the A-frame. [swing set] then they come to life and run around.”

The enclosure housed half a dozen opossums, birds and snakes.

Kate has converted a humble wardrobe into a snake pen.(Provided: Kate Triska)

From the wardrobe to the house of snakes

Kate has also turned cabinets and TV cabinets into a snake house and is currently working on a larger enclosure.

“I knocked down the panels to put netting in the door, then made air holes for the vents along the back,” she says.

“I’ll paint the inside and put vines and logs and stuff [for the snakes] To climb up.”

Kate uses painted expanding foam to create a realistic cave-like surface for the reptiles.

“I have so many little projects going on that I don’t really have room for much more,” she says.

Kate created a frog hotel made from PVC pipes in a pool of unwanted plastic.(ABC Radio Darwin: Conor Byrne)

A halfway house for wildlife

Once the injured animals have recovered, Kate releases them into the wild.

Northern brush-tailed possums, for example, are gently released into a nest box made of plywood and excess branches on the property.

Most will disappear into the bush when they’re ready, but one opossum in particular has chosen to stay with Kate.

“She’s more than welcome. But Ruby really likes living here,” Kate said.

Although state and territory rules differ, all wildlife in the Northern Territory is protected and government permits are required for their keeping and maintenance.

Kate holds an NT Parks and Wildlife permit as well as separate permits for snakes and sugar gliders.

Ruby the rescue opossum looks out of her homemade birdhouse from scraps.(ABC Radio Darwin: Conor Byrne)

Wildlife-Friendly Upcycling Ideas

Even if you live in a small place, Kate has plenty of recycling ideas to provide habitat for wildlife in your neighborhood.

  • Use old PVC pipes to create a frog hotel
  • Put plastic sheeting over car tires to make a pond or flowerpot
  • Glass jars filled with water are perfect for growing cuttings for your pond or garden.
  • Make a possum drey by joining two old hanging baskets to form an egg shape, cover it with coir or straw and hang it from a tree
The rescued possums love Kate’s garden.(Provided: Kate Triska)

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