Sunday, 25 February 2007

Building up Fiona's strength

These girls are old, have been through a lot, and are fairly institutionalised, so their behaviour is not exactly textbook 'koala'.

O'Briens Fiona
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I'm on the Sunday afternoon shift which consists mostly of feeding and watering leaf. There are just three of us on duty: Joyce, Mary and me. I start taking towels off the line as it's overcast and looks like rain. Joyce is showing some people around up in yard 10. Mary is sorting things out in the dayroom.

There's a crowd gathering so we start feeding. I haven't fed that naughty escape-artist, O'Briens Fiona before, so I pick her. She's very interested in the food, leaning out towards me and poking her tongue out for more when there's a break in the flow of formula. Mary starts on Innes Wonga in yard 2 and Joyce is feeding Kempsey Carolina.

With Fiona's leaf watered, I head into yard 9. Mary is feeding Birthday Girl and I notice a koala prowling around on the ground. It's Wiruna Lucky. Bonny Fire is up a tree. Mary makes up Lucky's formula and I ask if I can feed her; I've never fed a koala at ground level before. Mary warns me to call to her gently as I approach so as not to startle her: Lucky's eyesight is poor due to her cataracts. She comes towards me gingerly so I stop in front of her and ground down. She sucks on the syringe but doesn't come any closer so I cross my legs and sit down before her. There's quite a crowd at the fence watching this spectacle as it's unusual for a koala to be out of its tree/gunyah for long. These girls are old, have been through a lot, and are fairly institutionalised, so their behaviour is not exactly textbook 'koala'.

Wiruna Lucky

I finish watering yard 9 and see that the babies in yard 9a are putting on a spectacle for the 3pm tour. Both Kim and Links are on the gunyah; Links has come up behind Kimmy and has curled a paw around her waist. Kimmy turns her head and they sniff each other for a while which is hard not to imagine as canoodling -- it's delightful to see. Later Kimmy takes off up the tree and proceeds to dangle on one of the spindly far branches. She deposits herself on the roof of the umbrella like a net in a trapeze act and rejoins the trunk of the tree from there.

Ocean Kim & Links VTR

Back in the kitchen I see that Tozer Tom's formula is still on the table. I head off with it to yard 10. Joyce and Mary have just finished feeding Therese and Golfer. Tozer Tom is asleep and barely wakes while I feed him. He pauses in between squirts like he's thinking about whether or not to just nod off again. I keep changing position to regain his interest in the syringe.

Tozer Tom

Another koala is brought in by a couple called Tom and Bev. This one brings today's total admissions to four. Cathie Samson has been at the hospital before. His ailment this time is severe diarrhoea. There's no room in ICU so we make up a fifth unit in the aviaries. This is the first time I've seen more than four aviaries in use. There's leaf from the leafshed and we decide to put towels down, usually reserved for wet bottoms. Samson has a wet bottom of a different kind.

I check in on yard 9 and Bonny Fire's down from her tree. I return with her food and feed her, which she's pleased about. I finish folding the towels then do a quick mop of the treatment room and day-room before heading home.

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