Animal rescuer acknowledged in 2024 King’s Birthday Honours List

Kay is about to feed an orphaned baby wallaby. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS 411797_01

By Violet Li

Wild Days Wildlife Shelter’s founder, owner, and carer, Kay Taranto, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours List for her service to animal welfare.

Kay has fiercely dedicated herself to wildlife rescue, foster care, and conservation for more than two decades.

She has operated the shelter since 2008. She served as a wildlife rescue volunteer in the Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009 and the Victorian Bushfires in 2009 and 2010.

She has also been involved in various conservation groups and organisations such as the Conservation and Sustainability Community Reference Group in the City of Casey, the Animal Ethics Committee in Federation University, and the Wildlife Emergency Services Network under the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action.

“A couple of weeks ago, they sent you an email. I still don’t know who nominated me, but it’s really nice and amazing,” Kay said.

“After so many years of being involved in wildlife rehabilitation, I find there are more and more opportunities to work towards changing the minds of the community in how they impact wildlife.

“I am honoured to have been nominated for this award and hope that it will open the doors to being able to reach a wider audience.

“It is humbling to be among so many other incredible award nominees.”

Star News talked with Kay in late April when the shelter won the 2024 Casey Community Group of the Year.

Since then, the Narre Warren’s animal shelter has taken in quite a few new faces: a wide-eyed orphaned baby wallaby, an unhappy Boobook owl, a composed car-accident survivor Kookaburra, an agitated Mountain Brushtail Possum with fractured cheekbone and jaw, and an almost hairless baby wombat.

Things stay the same. Kay goes on to work two full-time jobs: the graveyard shifts in animal rescue and care, and her daylight legal career that helps financially back the former.

“My throwaway is still, I think I said last time, if everyone can put a water dish in their gardens, or plant a few more trees, it would have bigger impacts on the environment and save thousands of animals,” Kay said.

In retrospect, Kay believes the biggest gain she has had along the way is a realisation of the power of knowledge and understanding.

“What I’ve realised is how much you’ve got to get out in the community and let them know what’s going on and try and take steps to reduce the number of animals that come into care,” she said.

“Since I’ve been doing that, I was actually making a list of where I’ve been and who I’ve spoken to. And I didn’t realise I’d done as many as I have.”

Kay has made significant efforts to engage with the community for conservation over the years. She talked with young children in the schools. She attended network meetings. She had stalls at shows across Casey. She held nature activities for the children.

“I am just trying to reach a whole range of people. A lot of people are not aware of the impacts that what they do has on wildlife,” she said.

“As time goes on, I’ll do more and more of that because I think that will have a bigger impact.”

To know more about Wild Days Wildlife Shelter, visit:

To read the feature the paper had with Kay and the shelter earlier this year, visit: