Thursday, 15 February 2007

Ocean Therese and Tractive Golfer

Warrego Martin climbs back up his gunyah to the highest point and looks longingly at the tree in his yard, which is covered to prevent climbing (and hence escaping). I've seen this look before -- it's the closest a koala gets to an expression of calculation.

Tractive Golfer
From koalawrangler's gallery.
It was nice to see Amanda today. I missed my shift last Thursday and she was away for the previous two weeks, so it has been a while since I've koala'd under her tutelage. There are two new faces -- one male, one female: Jarrod and Erin. Amanda puts me on yard 10 with Yasmin.

Yard 10 is a delight compared to the cramped confines of the aviaries. That yard only used to house Tractive Golfer, who had free run of the place, until they subdivided the space along the edge of the yard into separate smaller yards -- about five or six of them. There's also a separate circular yard within yard 10 which tends to be the climber-rehab yard. It's where Treetop Boxer resided briefly before his release. It has its own tree which is not covered in a metal casing to prevent climbing, as many of them are. Rather, they've put Ocean Therese in there to encourage her to use her climbing muscles. In yard 9 she spent most of the day lounging around under a shade on her gunyah.

I clear out her water bowl and notice a large pellet-shaped object floating in it. I confer with Yasmin and we agree that it's a tick. I take it inside and Amanda tells me, no, it's only a swollen piece of poop -- get rid of it! I guess I'll have to work on honing my razor-sharp tick identification skills...

I return to yard 10 where I'm scheduled to feed Ocean Therese, but she's half way up her tree. Yasmin suggests I rattle the lid so she knows there's food. Once she knows formula's in the offing she starts to back her way down, her white rounded bottom bobbing all the way.

Ocean Therese
Ocean Therese
From koalawrangler's gallery.

By the time I let myself into her yard, she's actually climbed all the way from the tree to the gunyah to the ground. I crouch down over her and start to syringe the food in. Once again, I'm touched by having this fuzzy little face upturned towards me, a brown warmth in her eyes in the soft morning light. I haven't been so close to Therese before and I can immediately see her baby's resemblance to her. Ocean Kim was thrown from Ocean Therese when she was hit by a car on Ocean Drive. For some reason, koala mothers cease to recognise their young if they become separated. So Kim and Therese have been at the hospital in side-by-side yards without knowing (or caring) that the other is there :(

>Ocean Therese
Ocean Therese
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Yasmin and I were discussing this when I remark that they seem to put the joeys together for company, like a little orphanage. Apparently, after Ocean Kim was put in with Links VTR and Burraneer Henry, the doe-eyed Henry became a bit of a bully-boy. He would plant himself at a lower tree branch and refuse to let Kimmy come down for fresh leaf! So Links and Kim were put in yard 9A (where Links is undergoing his own climbing-training) and Henry was packed off to yard 4 on his own.

Ocean Therese

After feeding, Therese wanders off towards her gunyah, but shows no interest in climbing it. She plonked herself on the muddy ground with her legs stuck straight out in front of her and just hung onto the gunyah beam that reached the ground.

"She's probably hot", suggests Yasmin.

Or a bit loopy. It's possible that she may have suffered brain damage as a result of the car accident.

The smaller yards in yard 10 house Macquarie Peter, Warrego Martin, Tozer Tom and Links Lorna. I'm pleased to see Martin and Tom outside after their long weeks inside in ICU. Martin was still inside last week so he continues to explore his yard today. He's a bit timid when I go in, which is strange considering I was much closer to him (by necessity) in the units. He keeps jumping off his gunyah and wandering around the perimeter looking for a way out. Then he climbs back up his gunyah to the highest point and looks longingly at the tree in his yard, which is covered to prevent climbing (and hence escaping). I've seen this look before -- it's the closest a koala gets to an expression of calculation.

The leaf-gatherer's still preparing the bundles so all was can do is get the yards prepped for the leaf. The smaller yards are covered in dried leaf and palm fronds so there's little point in raking them much. I go through and replenish the water bowls and empty out one of the two leaf pots, scrubbing it and filling it with fresh water. Yasmin takes a pot from eepy Lorna who predictably eeps at her in protest.

Amanda and Ross come into the yard. Ross's job has fallen through so he's back on Thursday shift. I don't think anyone wants to leave this place. Yasmin starts a Bachelor of Business on Monday at the local campus of Newcastle Uni. I commiserate with her, there's no money in koalas. She wisely responds that you don't do koala work for the money, but for the love of it.

Ross and Amanda are looking for Tractive Golfer. I mention that I saw Golfer the other day sleeping on his gunyah with his bottom poked out, resting on the beam. She tells me that the way he sits is actually due to scoliosis. I've never seen him up close before. Ross spots him in a tree in the far corner. His face is resting in the crook of the branches, framing it. He'll come down sooner or later when he wants to be fed.

Beautiful Macquarie Peter whom I'd helped Amanda bag in ICU weeks ago, and then looked after in the cramped aviaries, is king of all he surveys out in the yards. He has a gentleness about him, despite his size. Today he adopts a ladies-come-and-get-me stance.

Macquarie Peter
Macquarie Peter
From koalawrangler's gallery.
The leaf is ready and I start preparing Peter's batch. Yasmin is preparing Golfer's. Suddenly we look around and there's Golfer himself crouched by the leaf rack. I've already separated Peter's leaf bundles and doused them in water. They're dripping invitingly from the rack. Golfer reaches up and starts to tuck in. No, you don't, says Yasmin. She tries to distract him with formula. Once he's finished that, I pick up Peter's leaf and Golfer takes off after me. Gimme that leaf! Yasmin grabs a branch and coaxes him towards his own gunyah where there is plenty of leaf. The way she's swinging the branch about, it's like watching her enact an arcane indigenous koala-luring custom. It works -- he follows the wet leaf like the proverbial carrot and the donkey.

Tractive Golfer & Yasmin
Tractive Golfer & Yasmin
From koalawrangler's gallery.

We finish cutting up the leaf for Warrego Martin, Tozer Tom and Links Lorna, then clean up the loose leaf from the yard. I check with Jackie in ICU to see if she needs help. They're almost done in there -- two of the units are empty -- so I go to join the team for a cup of green tea.

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