Volunteers play an important role in the search, rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife during emergencies.

DELWP requires certain training or experience of its volunteers, as improper rescue techniques by untrained or inexperienced persons can cause further stress or injury to wildlife, or even injure the volunteer themselves. The required level of training and experience varies depending on the role being undertaken, and the type of incident.

Volunteers deployed to wildlife emergencies are required to work within established emergency management structures to maintain personal safety, prevent duplication of effort and ensure the efficient and effective use of resources.  For these reasons, volunteers are required to abide by established volunteer management processes which include pre-requisite training and accreditation, registration, communication and reporting procedures, as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the adoption of hazard specific safety measures.

All volunteers involved in wildlife rescue operations must remember that they are working as part of a larger team and as such, their actions may have consequences for other people.  As a team member, each volunteer should look to ensure one another's welfare.  Volunteers who do not do as directed by DELWP during an emergency response will be directed to leave the incident.

Those interested in volunteering to assist during wildlife emergencies should contact their local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisation to volunteer.

Whale or dolphin stranding emergencies

Response activities to whale or dolphin strandings are high risk, complex operations that require experienced personnel.

In the event of a mass whale stranding, volunteers may be required. Volunteers will undergo onsite training with volunteers required to comply with DELWP protocols and operation standards at all times.

Large whale entanglement emergencies

Whales are very large and don't understand that the rescue team are trying to help, so their behaviour is often unpredictable.

Being close to a whale in distress is a very dangerous situation and in the past people have been seriously injured, and even died.

Human safety is the number one priority during entanglement operations. Whale entanglement response activities are extremely high risk and complex operations that require trained and experienced personnel.

For these reasons, volunteers are not allowed to be involved in a whale or dolphin entanglement operation.

Wildlife impacted by fire

Wildlife rescue volunteers are sometimes utilised following fires to assist agency staff in identifying and assessing  impacted animals.

Individuals wishing to volunteer must:

  • be familiar with the wildlife fire rescue protocols
  • have successfully completed the national course in Basic Wildfire Awareness or the CFA equivalent
  • wear and use DELWP approved personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • must only enter the fireground with the approval of the Incident Controller, irrespective of whether an individual meets the above minimum requirements
  • have a current wildlife shelter permit, foster carer authorisation or veterinary qualification (or be accompanied by someone who does).

Caring for wildlife affected by fire – factsheet (PDF, 58.8 KB)
Caring for wildlife affected by fire – factsheet (DOCX, 267.1 KB)

Wildlife impacted by marine pollution

If you are interested in volunteering in oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, you are required to complete training through Phillip Island Nature Park. Phillip Island Nature Park also supports a range of other volunteer activities ranging from revegetation and species monitoring to helping injured wildlife.

More information

Visit Sick, injured or orphaned wildlife for a list of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisations.

Read about Whale and dolphin emergencies

We support important volunteer programs aimed at improving Victoria’s environment which include activities other than emergency response.