Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Tasman Lesley's 360-degree turnaround

When little Tasman Lesley first came to us, I don't think anyone believed that she would pull through. She was hit by a car on Tasman Road, a suburban street that runs from Granite Street through to the ironically named Koala Street.

She was kept on oxygen for a couple of days when she first came in. The first time I saw her was during a visit to the treatment room. An altogether different koala (Bellevue Scrapper) was on the treatment table being checked for wounds after a dog attack. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a basket on the bench near the window. It contained a koala. It's not unusual for there to be a koala in a basket in the treatment room. Sometimes they are placed in baskets following ultrasounds while the anaesthetic wears off; or other time they're awaiting release.

What was strange about this koala was that she was just lying there, uncovered, and seemingly fast asleep...except that, on closer inspection, her eyes were open. Her eyes might have been open, but "no-one was home", as the expression goes.

Tasman Lesley
Tasman Lesley
From koalawrangler's gallery.

This was Tasman Lesley who had been unconscious since her car accident some 24 hours earlier. It was uncertain whether or not she would regain consciousness. When she was handled she became highly agitated and anxious which is suggestive of brain trauma. The prognosis was not good.

Lesley was placed in home care and then a unit in ICU, still in her basket. Leaf was put near the ground where she could reach it. It was actually five to seven days before she became fully conscious. She remained in her basket for some days and would be brought into the treatment room to receive the formula we feed some of the koalas to build up their strength.

Soon, Lesley demonstrated a miraculous recovery. Amazingly, she bounced back from her initial trauma and it became apparent that she had not sustained brain damage after all.

She enjoyed her food and was gaining strength and so was moved to outside yard where she continued her feeds. Because she was only a young adult koala, she was fed with a slender syringe usually reserved for joeys. She received a double dose of formula too, so this, coupled with the smaller syringe, meant feeding her took about half an hour.

She simply loved that formula and demonstrated a curious habit while feeding. Often, drips of the formula would end up on her fur; but, instead of waiting for it to be wiped off with a wet flannel, she would lick at it! It became her signature: when she was waiting for the syringe to be refilled, she would suck off any excess formula from her fur...a bit like, "I'm saving this bit for later!".

Cheyne and I were surfing around YouTube today and happened to come across this video taken by a visitor at the hospital. We recognised the koala to be Tasman Lesley. In the first half of the footage, one of the volunteers from the shop is explaining about Tasman Lesley's background. Then at about the 3:20 mark, a vollie comes and feeds Lesley. You can see her dropping her head and licking at her arm between feeds.

Lesley was eventually placed in yard 9 with the old girls so that she could get used to climbing again. She spent most of her time up a tree then, and seldom came down for feeds. This independence was a good indicator that she was ready to be returned to the wild, which she was. Here she is 'boxed up' and ready to go!

Tasman Lesley
Tasman Lesley on her way to new digs
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Click here to view more photos of Tasman Lesley.

Monday, 10 December 2007

You can't keep a good koala down: Lindfield Holden

Lindfield Holden
Excuse me, waiter, there's a koala in my salad!
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Another sorry fellow with a foot injury who's been through the hospital doors lately is Lindfield Holden. He was hit by car #1 (brand unknown) which stopped and was slammed into car #2, a Holden. Both Lindfield and the Holden lived to tell the tale: the car sandwiched between the koala and the Holden was written off!

There appeared to be no structural problems with his right feet, but he exhibited a great deal of difficulty manoeuvring it. He would hobble along, resting no weight on it. He was placed in the 'nursery' yard, a yard containing a small gunyah quite low to the ground that we usually reserve for joeys. We also placed plastic-covered pillows around it to soften his landing should he fall. He was a bit grumpy when he first went in there, probably due to the pain of his foot. He also looked rather forlorn and and a little overgrown in there, like an adult on the monkey bars in a kids' playground.

Pretty soon however, Holden started to make great strides -- literally. He took to ranging around his confined space and looking longingly at the large tree that furnished his yard.

Lindfield Holden
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Soon, we decided he was ready to be moved to another yard with a 'grown up' gunyah, the usual distance from the ground. Despite his continuing to hobble about, he was much happier there. His pain seemed to lessen and he would welcome his daily supply of fresh leaf:

Although we'll miss his handsome mousey face around here, I'm pleased to report that Lindfield Holden was deemed well enough to be released back to the bush last week.

Lindfield Holden
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Click here to view more of Lindfield Holden.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

You can't keep a good koala down: Josie

We've had a couple of koalas with us recently with quite debilitating foot injuries.

Salamander Bay Josie, a female, was attacked by a dog who managed to pull the skin and muscle away from the bone of her foot (called "degloving"). Josie was in a poor way when she came to us. She was placed in ICU, on the low beam of a gunyah there so that she could easily access her leaf without having to climb.

During the early part of her convalescence, American National Geographic paid us a visit to film a documentary. Josie was one of the koalas who caught their eye. Here she is playing a starring role:

Susan from National Geographic
American National Geographic's Susan with Salamander Bay Josie
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Due to the attack, Josie's heel bone was protruding through the skin so she underwent an operation to have the bone removed. You would think this would be something to slow any self-respecting koala down, but Josie never seemed to want to rest on her laurels. If koalas have on overriding instinct, it is to get as high up a tree as possible. So even with a bound up foot, Josie would climb up to the higher part of her gunyah with amazing agility.

Salamander Bay Josie
Salamander Bay Josie
From koalawrangler's gallery.

The next part of her treatment was to give her real climbing practice in an outside yard. Yard 4 is a one of the 'training' yards: it has its own tree which Josie took immediate advantage of...so much so that we hardly ever saw her down from it.

In the early stages of her climbing rehabilitation the left foot still arched back towards her in an awkward fashion (which you can see in the photo on the left). But she has been continuing her 'tree-climbing' physiotherarpy and this has worked exceptionally well. She has since been observed placing her foot flat on the ground, and...she has managed to escape from her yard, not once, but TWICE!

Early on we thought that Josie might have limited chances in the wild, and might be better off being transferred to a wildlife sanctuary rather than being released to the wild. But considering she has proven to be an expert climber, the hospital and her overseers at the Native Animal Trust Fund in Port Stephens have decided she is doing well enough to return to the bush!

Click here and here to view more of photos of Salamander Bay Josie.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Romance at Roto House

Roto Randy (r) in hot pursuit of Roto Abigail (l) with baby joey on her back!
Roto Randy has Abigail & joey out on a limb!
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Apologies koala fans, for my recent blog absence. Given my unknown whereabouts, you'd be forgiven for thinking I might have been out in the back of beyond cavorting with Aussie Mick...

There's a little story I've been meaning to share for a while now, one that's very close to home. The koala hospital exists alongside the restored Victorian homestead Roto House, on the grounds of the Macquarie Nature Reserve, a lovely clutch of natural bushland that is also home to a couple of wild koalas.

One such fellow is Roto Randy whom readers may recall from his frequent endeavours to visit our female patients in the outside yards. Recently, Randy was found in yard 9 and is presumed to have had his wicked way with Bonny Fire. Bonny already got pregnant from an unexpected koala visitor some years ago.

It is mating season, after all, and a koala's gotta do what a koala's gotta do.

Readers may also recall another koala we've been watching with interest: Roto Abigail, a female koala originally with a pinkie (unfurred joey) but whose joey has grown to a good size and now rides about on its mother's back like a caboose. It's always a pleasure to see them out in the grounds. It's not such a pleasure seeing Randy in hot pursuit, which is exactly how we found them recently.

The action takes place behind the koala hospital shop. Abigail and joey are up a lush tall gum tree minding their own business when someone spots Roto Randy climbing up the tree after her... Abigail, who already has her hands full with one youngster, is probably not too interested in getting up the duff with another just yet. Roto Randy has other plans. As Randy makes his way up the main trunk, Abigail moves higher up the tree to get away from him.

As Randy moves closer, Abigail retreat along a branch. Now Randy has her cornered. There's really no way out for her now. All she can do is back further along her branch.

By now, the cavorting koalas have gathered a crowd keenly watching the action. Randy is getting closer and closer to Abigail and she is manoeuvring around the spindly branches trying to keep her joey on-board while keeping Randy at bay.

At one point, it looks like the joey is going to tumble off and crowd utters a joint "oooh!". Joeys are occasionally orphaned this way -- they can be thrown off or separated from their mothers during mating and don't find their way back. Chris, one of the leaf collectors and rescuers comments that a resident once reported finding a joey asleep in her laundry. The mother left the joey on the washing machine during mating and returned for it afterwards.

Randy is just in grabbing distance of Abigail and suddenly the joey comes off! Poor Abigail! She's looking out for junior while deflecting advances from Randy.

It's then that we decide something needs to be done. It's not the first time Randy's been given the heave-ho to allow Abigail some breathing room. You can see film footage of this daring capture below.

Chris reverses the rescue truck under the tree and climbs aboard the upper cage. He wields a very long rescue pole with a cloth or two dangling from the end. The pole itself doesn't need to touch the koala -- it's the dangling cloths and the end that cause the koala to take flight and descend the tree.

It's never an exact science and Randy starts to descend at first, but then makes a bolt upwards again. Peter grabs a second pole and manoeuvres it from the ground to give Randy less opportunities to ascend.

Emma is waiting at the bottom of the tree with a bag. She manages to grab Randy's legs, at which point I ditch the camera and tear over to thrown a bag over his head. There are three of us at the bottom but we finally get him in the bag.

Our hearts are racing as we carry Randy in a bag to the far end of Macquarie Nature Reserve. An American lady accompanies us and asks what it was that Randy wanted with Abigail. I'd forgotten that "Randy" is a self-evident name amongst Australians/Brits, but it's connotations of, well, amorousness, did not make it across the Atlantic. Well, Randy certainly didn't want to take a Abigail to dinner and a movie...not without a babysitter anyway.

Poor old Randy. He found himself let out of the bag under a completely different tree and nowhere near that cute female koala he was after. Oh well, he's always got night-time to look forward to. And what he and Abigail get up to then, well, we'll never know.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The great koala chase

Tawny Frogmouth and chick in yard 9
Tawny Frogmouth and chick in yard 9
From koalawrangler's gallery.

No, when I left the koala hospital this afternoon I didn't expect I'd be chasing a koala down Pacific Drive before I made it home.

Cheyne asked me to come in to the hospital this arvo to put my slide-wench skills to good use. She is giving a presentation next week on the work we do at the koala hospital, and the finer details of PowerPoint were eluding her.

So after spending a couple of hours animating text and cropping some pretty gruesome photos of dog attacks and motor vehicle accidents, I was glad to get out amongst the well-tended, luckier koalas in our care.

Three Dutch ladies outside Perks Chris's yard beckoned to me as I locked up. They were having trouble picking out our old girls in yard 9. I was happy to give them an impromptu tour along the perimeter of the yards. Birthday Girl was curled up on the gunyah, but I couldn't see Bonny up her usual tree. I thought she might have gone into hiding in case Roto Randy was feeling the love again (as he did the other night when he broke into yard 9 and, we suspect, had his wicked way with her). But we walked north around yard 9 and could see Bonny curled up on the gunyah on the other side.

The cute little tawny frogmouth mother was still there with her chick, pretending to be a tree branch. Wiruna Lucky seemed to be the only koala awake and snuffling her leaf. Around in yard 10, Westport Lily was tucked up in the spines of her umbrella.

Little did I know that these weren't the last koalas I would see today!

Since it was still light, I drove home via the coast road rather than Lord Street. I had passed Flynn's Beach shops when I saw a couple walking a huge dog, something like a cross between a wolf and a shetland pony. They'd come to a stop by a large tree at the side of the road, where, to my complete shock, there sat a koala. As I sped by, it looked peculiarly like the koala and the dog were having a conversation (fortunately the dog was on a tight leash).

I immediately pulled over and jumped out of the car, not sure what I was going to do when I got out. Did I have a towel in the car if I needed to pick the koala up, should something happen? I had no chance to find out as, the koala decided he'd had enough with talking to the dog and bounded headlong into the road, Pacific Drive. I only had enough time to recognise that the koala had an orange tag in its ear (so was a former hospital patient).

My gut response was to fling myself into the traffic (not really TRAFFIC, there were a few cars coming on either side). I waved my hands frantically at the cars going south and then threw myself in the way of cars approaching north. Fortunately, everyone stopped and our plucky koala bounded off down Leanda street headed for who-knows-where.

Of course, I went after it. I felt a bit like Alice following her white rabbit down the rabbit hole. I was also starting to wonder which piece of clothing--my t-shirt or my pants (the wraparound Thai fisherman variety)--would be the least offensive garment to remove if I needed to use them to pick up the koala. Yes, this is the kind of madness that goes through the mind of a koalawrangler when hot on the heels of a scampering koala. Of course, what I was going to do with the koala when I got it was a another matter.

I saw a guy approaching at a distance with a dog--I squawked at him, "Is your dog on a leash?! I've got a koala here!". Naturally.

My koala didn't seem to know where it was going but stopped and paused on someone's front lawn before heading off into their side yard. As a I tramped through the backyards of Leanda Street, I realised I was harbouring the illogical sense that this was somehow a lost koala--probably because it had an ear-tag and I wasn't used to seeing tagged koalas outside the hospital. It somehow felt that this koala was AWOL from yard 10 or something. It wasn't of course, nor did there look to be anything wrong with it. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It seemed to me that I would need help so I got the koala hospital on the line. John answered and I talked (or more like, squawked) my way through the situation. The koala seemed to have worked its way into a corner. The side yard backed onto two other yards where three fences met at a point, two metal and one wood. Amazingly, the koala climbed the wooden fence and along the metal fence.

It was beyond my help now.

A guy in the backyard next door was cracking open a beer. I blurted out from the shrubbery, "do you have a dog?". I think looking at horrible photos of koala dog-attack victims all afternoon had unsettled me. The bloke wandered over to the fence as I watched the koala's dappled behind disappear up the fence line away from me.

"Oh don't worry", he told me. "He's usually here".

Ohhhh. So I'd just been stalking someone's very own backyard koala???

Just then, the koala in question sat back on his haunches and let out a loud koala mating drawl--definitely a male. If he was a gorilla, he'd probably have been beating on his chest about now.

"There are koala trees just here", the man continued, like having a koala in his backyard was the most natural thing in the world. Behind me, I heard a miaow. A calico cat was looking at me quizzically as if to say, "what are doing in my owner's rose bushes?". It seems like I was the only entity who was concerned about the koala being there.

So I headed home, living to wrangle another day!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Aussie Mick, the rare white koala

Yes, folks, you heard it here first, okay, well, LAST then...but I'm not bitter! The story of Mick the rare white koala burst onto the world stage on 21 September, after we koalawranglers had known about his existence for some weeks. It's testament to the serious task we perform at the hospital that we'd all been keeping our lips (and keyboards) sealed on the matter, despite our understandable delight at having such a rare and precious beastie in our care. So we had to make do with whispering excitedly about him amongst ourselves.

Yesterday I read in that worthy tome, Wikipedia, that Port Macquarie is the "koala capital of Australia". If so, then Mick's stay with us really put Porpoise Spit on the map (even though he's not from anywhere near Port Macquarie and he's now long gone).

I remember my first shift at the hospital after Mick had been admitted. Cheyne gleefully ushering me towards ICU and I could tell from the way she was "frothing at the mouth", as she put it, there had to be *special* sort of koala in there. But who? I ran a quick survey in my mind of the small clutch of koalas celebrities who might fit the bill.

Blinky Bill is a clear stand-out. Then there's Bunyip Bluegum from Norman Lindsay's classic The Magic Pudding. Or you can't go past Cadbury's Caramello Koala. Of course, lately, the Japanese Koala March has marched its way into local supermarkets. And there's always the KoalaWhere koala -- you never know where that's going to turn up.

But no, we'd really hit the koala jackpot this time.

The curtain covering the grating to his unit delayed the revelation for a moment, but then Cheyne slid back the door and there he was, in all his fluffy white glory. Behind Mick were green and brown-striped towels tacked to the windows to prevent anyone's seeing in from outside. These, together with the wood and leaf accessories, gave his unit something of a funky 70s décor. All that was missing was the flocked wallpaper. Indeed, I got momentary flashbacks to Elvis's jungle room at Gracelands, minus the deep-fried Mars bars.

My invitation into Mick's unit did feel a bit like an audience with the King himself (only rarer, given the amount of Elvis sightings that occur each year in the US). It was truly like beholding a mythic being, a fairy, or golden child. The tiny whiteboard outside his unit (used to identify name, sex and symptoms) simply read: "ghost who walks". It's moments like this that I realise how out of touch I am (with obscure comic culture). The caption automatically caused me to configure a whole indigenous dreamtime story in my mind before being advised that, no, it was simply a quote from The Phantom comic. Despite the descent into pop culture, there's something apt about the epigraph. He stood before us, clinging onto the fork of his gunyah like a wise sage who'd just spent 80 years on a mountain-top before finally deigning to bring his cosmic wisdom to us mortal folk down in the valley.

Aussie Mick, the rare white koala
Aussie Mick, the rare white koala
From koalawrangler's gallery.

So what made Mick such a rarity? Well, to start with, he's NOT albino. Albinism is a congenital disorder characterised by a lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, hair and skin. Mick doesn't have this or any other genetic disorder; his nose was the generic koala black and his eyes were yellow (although his pink eyelids may make him susceptible to skin cancer). So while albinos do crop up more often than you think, Mick is the result of genetics playing out to produce the perfect example of the recessive fur gene in koalas, like having all the planets in the right alignment at the right moment. It would take decades of painstaking breeding to engineer such a creature.

On the topic of fur, what's interesting is that, although everyone's been calling him white, he's was actually more of a cream colour (and I don't mean his scent gland which is always a different colour than the rest of the fur on male koalas). Next to Kempsey Carolina's snow white chest fur, Mick's fur's got more of that lovely rich yellowness you get in a good full-fat vanilla ice-cream.

Kempsey Carolina
From broken_puzzle's gallery.

Aussie Mick
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Other than his rare fur colour, Mick was surprisingly average in koala terms. He looked like many of the big koala boys we get in there and was just as docile. And, alas, Mick's cloak of special fur did not exempt him from the infection currently plaguing our koalas, Chlamydia. In Mick, the disease had come up as a conjunctival infection which left his eyelids red and crusty -- like "red cabbages", as Cheyne put it. Once in our care, Mick underwent an operation to remove the "granula tissue on the conjunctival membrane", followed by treatment with a special ointment. Pretty soon, he was right as rain.

It's customary to name every koala who comes through our doors with the place they're from and the person who brought them into our care. In Mick's case, "Aussie Mick" seemed to fit since he hails from a secret location over two days' drive from here, but “Australia” is about as specific as we’d like to be. When I asked Cheyne where exactly it was, she got that look in her eye that means, "if I tell you, I weeel haf to keeel you". I joked with her the other day that next we’ll be calling him “Southern Hemisphere Mick”, just to be on the safe side.

Now that Mick's back home (wherever that is), we're hoping he's enjoying his improved vision and that he's also adjusting to the Groucho Marx nose and glasses we've fitted him with so that no-one recognises him there. If they're good enough for Elvis, they're good enough for our Mick.

Here's a random sampling of the coverage Mick received in the media, or a "lit review" as they call it in PhD school, although a "Mick review" might be more appropriate (yuk yuk):

"Magic Mick's one in a million" | Port Macquarie News

"Meet Paleface, the rare white koala bear" | Daily Mail (with video)

"White koala nursed back to health" | BBC

"He is all white" | The Daily Telegraph (photo gallery)

"Rare white koala has eye surgery" | news.com.au

"White koala returned to bush" | The Daily Telegraph

"Rare white koala rescued and released" | Where Light Meets Dark (blog)

"Rare white koala rescued | MSNBC (video)

"Rare white koala found" | The Guardian (video)

"Rare white koala goes home" | The Age (video)

"White koala returned to bush" | Care 2 (blog)

"White koala killing us with cuteness" | Jezebel (blog)

"Mick the white koala bear" | Reuters (video)

"Rare white koala gets medical help in Australia" | Planet Ark

"Rare white koala" | Neatorama (blog)

You can view photos we took of Mick at the Koala Hospital here.

You can ADOPT Aussie Mick here, which takes you to Mick's sponsorship page on the Koala Hospital website. We don’t get any external funding so this helps raise valuable funds to ensure we can continue to save koalas of all colours.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Lounging around with Westport Lily

Westport Lily
Westport Lily
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Westport Lily is a little female koala keeping Tractive Golfer company up in yard 10. She is one of the koalas who occupies the grounds of Westport High School here in Port Macquarie. Lily was brought in as a suspected wet bottom so she has a towel tied to her gunyah to show up any urinal discharge we would need to worry about.

Westport Lily enjoying her leaf

Lily has a quirky habit of lying stretched out on the gunyah as though she's waiting for her masseur to show up. "Make mine a hot stones massage with a bit of aromatherapy thrown in!"

Unfortunately, Cheyne says that an odd "cyst-like" structure has shown up under ultrasound which could explain her curious lounging activities. It may be that this is the only position she is comfortable in. It's a sad fact that whenever the koalas do anything that's particularly novel or different, it's usually because something's wrong.

Lily's a bit of a pacer. Like many of the koalas in the hospital, they spend a bit of time on the ground sussing out their yard and trying to find a way out. Here she is taking a bit of a run up...

Westport Lily coming straight for me!

Click here to view more of today's koala hospital snaps.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

News flash: "Koala bites dog"

If ever I'm in a tight situation, Bellevue Scrapper is definitely the koala I'd want in my corner.
If you've read my disclaimer above, you'll see that I'm not above admitting my lack of know-how in the medical department. I enjoy learning about the scientific side of koala care, primarily because it contributes to my understanding of each koala's "story", but I can be slow on the uptake sometimes. I'm an Arts graduate, okay?! I'll give you an example.

It's Thursday and I've just finished my work in the yards and have ventured into ICU to see what needs doing in there. There's action in the treatment room: Jarrod, Cheyne and Amanda are inspecting a small koala on the treatment table.

KW: "Who's this?".
Cheyne: "A new one: Bellevue Scrapper"

Scrapper got into a scrap with a dog so they are checking her for any wounds. I'm continually amazed at how placid koalas tend to be, showing little more than an ear-wiggle that they're distressed or annoyed. But this particular koala seems to be exceptionally docile as they gently move her about searching out scratches or bite-marks.

Cheyne's pretty used to my dopey questions by now, but I really excel with the following.

KW: "So is it normal for a koala to let you move her around like that?"
Cheyne: "Well, she is unconscious"
KW: "But her eyes are open!"
Cheyne: "Yes, the eyes do stay open when they're under"
KW: "Ohhhhhhhhh". (*thinks to herself* quick, say something brilliant so they don't think you're a complete dork) "So when I got my wisdom teeth out, my eyes were open the whole time???!!!"

Okay, I decided to stop while I was behind.

Bellevue Scrapper's story is a something of a curious one. She was involved in a dog attack, which is a common and horribly depressing occurrence with our urban koalas, especially during mating season (um not because of any weird cross-species hanky-panky, but because mating koalas are on the ground more where, sadly, dogs are king). But, according to the people who brought her in, it was Scrapper who attacked the dog, not the other way round! And Scrapper doesn't have a scratch on her...a couple of ticks, but not a scratch. What makes this story all the more unique is that Scrapper is a tiny little thing, barely more than a juvenile. Cheyne hazarded that she is no more than 18 months old. I don't know how the dog came off following the altercation, but I wouldn't think it'd be woofing too loudly about this one with its canine pals right now. If ever I'm in a tight situation, Bellevue Scrapper is definitely the koala I'd want in my corner.

Perhaps koalas are evolving to take on dogs on their own turf? (Probably not, but it makes for an amusing theory). Scrapper's case is so sadly ironic because we usually have the opposite case on our hands, and the koalas come off far worse than the dogs.

Recently we have had a spate of dog attacks lately. Salamander Bay Josie came to us from our friends at the Native Animal Trust Fund after a dog attack degloved her foot. She is with us to undergo rehab and physio to the area. Dunbogan Mastiff wasn't so lucky and died after an attack by a Mastiff hound.

There's been some releases too. Pacific Highway Vina who tried to "self-release" last week by hightailing it into another yard and up a tree was officially released during the week. She's made an amazing recovery considering she was in such a bad way after being hit by a car only a few weeks ago.

Poor old Comboyne Ken who had a crushed wrist was euthanased and, I'm sad to say, little Cathie Ali.

On a happier note, Chisholm Dave (the one Pete and I rescued from a Camelia bush after taking a dip in a backyard pool [Dave, not me or Pete] was released, as was Pacific Simon who was scampering up Pacific Drive when he was brought in.

Click here to view more of today's koala hospital snaps.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A bagful o' Dave

Last week, the hospital yards seemed chockful of koalas and most of the gunyahs bristled with leaf. The volume of koalas tends to coincide with the warmer weather when koalas are on the move seeking out other koalas for mating. This puts them in unwanted path of dogs and cars as they leave their comfortable branches to traverse backyards and urban streets. It's no coincidence that male koala patients have been in the majority lately, as these frisky boys venture out for some summer lovin'.

Remember the marsupial lothario who was pursuing Roto Abigail, the wild koala mum who lives just outside the hospital grounds near Roto House? He's been eyeing up some of our female patients for a while now, so it was decided that Roto Randy, as he's been dubbed, should be relocated to an area with healthy females, not those recovering from motor vehicle accidents, koala flu, and the like. The last thing our girls need is a male grunting and snuffling about the place while they're recuperating.

Cuddly Ocean Jane is missing from her usual spot in yard 2. She's been given the all-clear and released. Limping Livingstone Clover has also made the trip to Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary where he'll hopefully help beef up their koala numbers.

Lighthouse Barry has also re-entered the wild, which is a relief, since we could barely keep him on his gunyah once he was transferred outside. He kept climbing up onto his roof and John, Jim and Pete took turns in propping a pole up for him to ease himself down to the ground.

Perks Chris is still doing his border patrol, trotting in regular steps around his yard. Emma's just finished Chris's yard and is starting on the koala in yard 1. The gate to the adjacent yard is open, which is unusual. She points skyward and I train my eyes up the tree in the next door yard.

Perks Chris & Lighthouse Barry on the prowl
Perks Chris & Lighthouse Barry
From koalawrangler's gallery.

There's a koala unbelievably high up, hugging a thick tree branch and looking for all the world like she's smiling smugly. Emma tells me it's Pacific Highway Vina, which is wonderful! She was so very fragile when she first came in after being hit by a car on the Pacific Highway a few weeks back. When I last saw her in ICU, she could hardly chew and even struggled to take in the liquid formula. Now here she is jumping fences and shimmying up trees -- a sure sign that she's on the mend. The hospital isn't Fort Knox; the outside yards balance the open-air freedom the furry patients crave with a modicum of security measures. Some crafty koalas will inevitably find a way out, but usually only into the next yard, and this doesn't happen very often. Emma replenishes Vina's gunyah with leaf. There'll be a eucalyptus smorgasbord waiting for her should she decide to return to earth.

The outside yards are well in hand so I start on newcomer Cathie Ali in ICU. She's a small female who regards me warily as I enter and start to clean out her unit. She's a clean girl; there's only a small smattering of tiny poo's on the newspaper beneath where she's perched on her gunyah. I start sweeping out the newspaper and sweep up the poo. She's so far down one end of the gunyah that I can easily replace one of her towels. She's a suspected wet bottom, so they're probably waiting on test results to confirm her mode of treatment.

Just then Peter pops his head in to see if I'll join him on a rescue. Two koala sightings have been made within only a few blocks of the hospital. It constantly amazes me how embedded in suburbia our koalas are. The first one is behind a block of flats opposite Flynn's Beach. A shirtless fellow emerges from his apartment to describe how he saw a koala ambling up the driveway with a sore leg. There's a large fence the separates the flats from a clutch of trees. Pete spots the big fellow high in one of these trees and far out of reach of even our longest poles. Unless he voluntarily moves to a more accessible spot, there'll be no getting to him, which is a shame since he obviously needs some medical care.

We head off to the next koala location. On another suburban street, there's a couple of kids waiting as we arrive. They take us to their front yard swimming pool and there, shivering in a Camelia tree is a very wet koala. Chisholm Dave, as he is to be known, has picked a good tree (for us, not for him). It's very low and with the help of a step ladder, Peter manages to wrestle him off the tree. I'm standing by with a bag and help by pulling and pushing branches out from under Dave's claws so that he eventually tumbles into my outstretched canvas sack. At the last minute, he makes a grab for whatever he can get a hold of and manages to drag down the front of my shirt revealing my bra to all and sundry. I'm just glad it wasn't my skin he found purchase in. I'm past caring about modesty, as long as I've bagged my koala.

I've got my hands stretched out before me holding on tight to the neck of bag. I don't want to rest the koala against myself as they've been known to tear through the bag on occasion. So this koala deadweight is giving my bingo wings a workout. I walk quickly to the car and sit in the back with Dave next to me. We're only a a few streets away so in no time Dave's on the treatment table being towelled off by Peter. John and Jim get to work preparing Dave a new unit with fresh leaf. He looks like a new koala when he gets delivered to his room and sets upon the leaf straight away. The camelia bush obviously wasn't providing must in the way of sustenance.

Keith's brought in another koala that made the mistake of running down the middle of Pacific Drive at 11.30pm last night. Fortunately, and amazingly, he wasn't hurt and Keith looked after him overnight before admitting him to the hospital today. He's a frisky little fellow, only a juvenile judging by his size and seems healthy. He has a very white, clean little bottom, but the towel from his basket is stained red, which unfortunately suggests there may be something wrong internally. Cheyne will have her work cut out for her on Monday with all these new admissions.

I return to Cathie Ali and finish off her unit with some fresh wet leaf. I notice that there's something strange going on with her claws on her front right hand. The claws look like they're split or are shedding an external layer. She's very timid and scurries down the other end of her gunyah with John's help and I finish replacing her towels.

I scan the day book to find out about recent activity in the hospital. I'm saddened to see that Oceanview Terry was brought in DOA. He was one of the successful patients from the university chlamydia drug trials from last year.

Little Oxley Cori is a tiny 440g joey who was found miraculously alive sitting under a tree. He's gone straight into home care with one of our special koala foster mums. Comboyne Ken is another koala in home care. He's from an area about an hour inland from us here at Port Macquarie. He was covered in soot from the local bush fires and is suffering a broken wrist and general poor body condition. Speaking of soot, a recent patient Anna Bay Sooty has been sighted near a youth hostel with her baby Smudge. It's not often we find out that our ex-patients are doing well.

Click here and here to view more of today's koala hospital snaps.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Pacific Highway Vina

I feel a bit lethargic as I lock my car and head towards the hospital entrance, but in yard 2, Ocean Jane's fluffy round ears are peeking over her leaf pots and the sight immediately turns my mood around.

I can also see Perks Chris over behind her. He's soaking up the sun and waiting for his leaf. Emma and Jarod are moving around the main yard by the clothes line full of the wash-cloths we use to wipe the koalas little faces after feeding.

On my way inside, I say hi to Carol in the shop. Pete's the teamleader as usual and Judy's supervising today. I check the board to see whose yards I've got, then head out to start on Livingstone Clover. Jarod's in with Kempsey and I pass him her feed-pot. She's nestled in her leaf, not snuffling around on the ground as she was the other day. She's got a bit of a cold or infection at the moment. I noticed her nose was a bit snotty on Thursday, and they're giving her antibiotics at the moment to deal with that. She's one of our precious permanent residents we vollies give five-star care.

Mr Clover is down on his gunyah eating yesterday's leaf. Amanda released him back into his yard on Thursday, which you can see on this video:

Clover was found limping across a busy road when he was admitted. He had an infection in his left knee, possibly as a result of an earlier motor vehicle accident. Consequently, he hobbles around a bit. He's destined to be transferred to Australian Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary since his disability would inhibit his survival in the wild. In all other respects, he's a healthy male so he'll hopefully be able to contibute to the koala numbers over there. A few days before the transfer was due to take place, he took a tumble from his tree in the rehab climbing yard and was taken into ICU for observation. Now he's fit as a flea, and always has a good appetite for his leaf.

I see Chris and Jim pull up in the leaf/rescue truck and Jim jumps out with a koala basket in tow. In the treatment room, it's Chris who looks like he needs treatment: he's clutching a towel around his hand and there's blood spatter on his jeans. He got in the way of the koala's mouth. King Norm (the koala) is fine; just needs relocating. Meanwhile, Chris wonders if he needs stitches. Koalas are rarely very aggressive, but when provoked can deliver a nasty scratch or bite.

Back in the yard, I sort out Clover's recycle and cut his fresh leaf. Somewhere between rescuing and releasing, Chris has managed to bring in today's leaf supply as well. Clover made sure he gave it a right good sniff to decide which were the choicest leaves:

I head in to ICU to see whether they need help in there. Peter grabs the dirt trowel I'm holding and replaces it with a feed pot. There's a new admission who was brought in on Thursday night. She's a small female called Pacific Highway Vina. She was hit by a motor vehicle on the great highway that travels Australia's east coast. Cheyne got called out to collect her at midnight and it was touch and go for a while whether she should be euthanased. She suffered a fractured jaw and injuries to her rump and arm.

Judy took her into home care on Friday night. Often very sick koalas or joeys are packed into baskets with a rolled up towel between their arms that stands in for the tree. But Vina was a feisty one and wouldn't stay in put, which is often a sign that they have the gumption to pull through. She wasn't interested in my feeding her so I asked Judy to step in since she's had more experience with her. Vina's jaw makes it hard for her to chew leaf so it's vital she takes in formula to keep her strength up.

While Judy's coaxing Vina to feed, I set about preparing her leaf and cleaning her unit. There's not a lot of poop, due to her low leaf consumption, but I roll what up what there is in her newspaper floor cover. I get a flashlike memory of playing pass-the-parcel, only generally with sweets and little toys, rather than koala poo pellets(!).

Jim's looking after Lighthouse Barry who is a big old man koala suffering from what looks like conjunctivitus in his left eye. Apparently there's no eye there though, only an infection on the outside, which is being treated with a cream.

Emma's in with Pacific Sam who's a 'repeat offender'. This is the third time he's been in the hospital that Emma knows about, and I remember his second visit from my early days of a wrangling. He's got a skin condition on his shoulder called hyperkeratosis, which is just a thickening of the skin tissue in a certain spot. It looks like he's been scratching at it which is why that suspected he'd been attacked my a dog, but fortunately this was not the case. It reminds me of the fate of poor Morrish Steven, one of the great successes of the uni drug trials. He was cured of his Chlamydia only to be brought in DOA some months later after a dog attack.

According to the daybook, another koala, Chisholm Yalkara, met the same fate. On a positive note, Ocean Flyer who had been brought in after falling from a power pole, has lived to fly another day and was released during the week. Also, sweet little Oxley Kizza, the sweet-faced koala who had reminded me so much of dearly departed Oxley Jo, was released during the week, as was Brindabella Sophie. A suspect growth showed up on Sophie's ultrasound which didn't bode well, but for once we were glad to be wrong--she was given the all-clear by our vet and set on her way.

I start tidying up a bit outside in the yard as Judy goes in to give Kempsey her medication. Judy has looked after a few joeys in her time and I lament to her the dearth of joeys in the place. Of course, it's really a good thing that joeys are being cared for by their mothers and not needing to come into our care, but I still get wistful looking at yard 6 where there have always been joeys since I began wrangling here over six months ago.

Breeding season is almost upon us now, which may mean more joeys coming through. There is a koala called Roto Abigail who lives in the grounds outside the hospital. Abigail has a joey who's big enough to ride on her back. Apparently, on Friday, several of the vollies were in thrall to the antics of a wild male pursuing Abigail over the treetops. It's situations like this where joeys can get separated from their mother. The vollies were holding out towels ready to catch either mother or joey should she fall, but fortunately this didn't happen as Abigail managed to evade her marsupial lothario.

Click here and here to view more of this week's koala hospital snaps.