DEVELOPMENT is changing Knox's fundamental character by robbing it of native vegetation and animals, a wildlife carer claims.
Boronia's 'possum lady', Yvonne Cowling, told the Weekly that as properties are cleared to make way for new homes or apartments, native animals are increasingly being displaced from their homes.
"Developers buy up several blocks and clear everything and the animals are the casualties. The possums are displaced and move into roofs of abutting properties," she said.
Ms Cowling says the problem is intensifying as older homes in Boronia are cleared to make way for apartment blocks.
"It completely alters the environment. That's where the older trees are with hollows. There was one property that housed a pair of galahs who were nesting — but the tree was knocked down and one adult and the babies were killed."
Ms Cowling has long been an advocate and lover of animals, following in the footsteps of her animal-loving father and a childhood that revolved around caring for furry friends.
"I was always bringing an animal home to care for, whether it was a frog or even a goat," she said. "I can't remember any day without an animal."
When she moved to the suburbs from the country, her focus naturally switched to native wildlife that roamed the Knox municipality. Over the years, her home has grown to house a variety of cages and spaces for all animals, which she nurtures back to health before releasing them back into the wild.
And the demand for her services is increasing by the day, as houses and sprawling blocks make way for three-storey apartment buildings and town houses.
Ms Cowling said a pair of peregrine falcons were also victims of the disturbing trend of development taking over the suburbs.
The falcons' former home was the old Ferntree Gully quarry which was vacant for more than 20 years. During that time, it became home to lizards, birds, possums and snakes. While the snakes were removed by the council, noise and dust from the bulldozer forced the rest to flee.
The falcons now live in a tree on a vacant property in Ferntree Gully, but that site, too, is earmarked for redevelopment. While the tree won't be demolished, Ms Cowling said the dust and noise would force them to move again — "now where do they go?"
She wants Knox Council to commit to protecting native animals by setting aside vacant land for reserves that could ultimately become wildlife corridors.
She said an ideal site would be the former Boronia Heights Primary School, but the council's city development acting director Paul Dickie said the council had not budgeted to purchase additional habitat reserves.
"The council has several reserves and parkland within Knox which create an excellent habitat for native wildlife."
Ms Cowling also encouraged residents to create their own wildlife corners in their backyards. "All you need is a small portion of your backyard, cover it with wire netting so cats can't get in — because cat control is impossible — and it will be good for little birds," she said.
Ms Cowling said said she found distressed animals all over Knox — particularly Boronia, Ferntree Gully and Rowville — and the only place to release them safely was out of Melbourne. Last week she received nine ringtailed possums in one day but they all had to be put down.
"They've got nowhere safe to be."