Friday, 2 March 2007

Goodbye Macquarie Peter!

In the fork of the branch where he perpetually sat, I see that he has left me a little present: three little pellets of koala poop nestle there. I'm momentarily taken back to easter egg hunts as a child...

Warrego Martin
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Today I'm allocated to yard 10 with Barb and a friend called Colleen she's training up. There seem to be quite a few people on today: Geoff, Peter, Mary, Anne, Judy, Barb, Danae and now Colleen. But there are about 30 koalas in the hospital at the moment, so we need every pair of hands.

We set out via the leaf shed to collect the leaf cutters although the leaf gatherer's nowhere to be seen yet. All the koalas look a bit soggy after last night's rain. They're fur is wet and stringy in places instead of the usual all-over fluffiness. Ocean Therese and Tractive Golfer are up their respective trees; the koalas that encircle yard 10 are waking up with the promise of fresh leaf.

Barb and Colleen start on Therese's yard, completely stripping her pots of leaf since she is at the highest point of her tree. I start down at Links Lorna's yard. Predictably she eeps when I enter, although I give her plenty of space. I rake up her poop, refill her water and clean out one pot of leaf and water. I stay away from her where possible; I don't want to upset her any more than my mere presence here already does.

Tozer Tom
Tozer Tom
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I do the same for Tozer Tom, Warrego Martin, Macquarie Peter and Oxley Jo. Tozer Tom is awake and enjoying some of yesterday's leaf. Although I'm standing right in front of him taking photos, he's munching away like I don't even exist: he's gone to the leaf zone.

Warrego Martin starts climbing up his umbrella. Gunyahs often have a forked branch that bisects the horizontal beam vertically; it's another place for the koala to climb up and down from the ground, and they like to sit wedged in the fork. The vertical beam on this gunyah is quite high, allowing Martin to climb up to the spokes at the underside of the umbrella. He sits up there in a squatting position looking around the yard. I think he's calculating whether he can leap across to the tree beside him; it's covered in a metal casing to about the height of the umbrella to prevent his climbing it.

Today's leaf man gives the all-clear that we can start taking the leaf he's laid out in bundles. Barb and Colleen stock up Ocean Therese and Oxley Jo. When they moved Jo into this yard, she gave Barb quite a scratching; but now she lets Barb chuck her under the chin like they are old friends.

Barb & Oxley Jo making up
Barb & Oxley Jo making up
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Martin might be up, but Therese is making her way down for breakfast. Barb and Colleen feed her and then, since the fresh leaf isn't ready, they take her off to ICU to be weighed. There's talk of Therese being relocated to a wildlife park in Gosford. They want her work on strengthening her leg muscles for climbing; they were damaged in the motor vehicle accident that brought her to the hospital with her joey, Ocean Kim. There's also suspected brain damage, which is why they don't want to return her to the wild: it's unlikely she would survive there.

She's such a complacent koala; I suggest to Barb she could probably carry Therese out to the treatment room in her arms. Understandably though Barb doesn't want to risk it after the slice-and-dice affair with Oxley Jo last weekend. When they return however, that's just where Therese is: snuggled in Barb's arms like an overgrown joey.

Ocean Therese & Barb
Ocean Therese
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Ocean Therese & Barb
Ocean Therese with Barb
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Barb tells me that Orr Palmerston, one of Sunday's admissions, was released yesterday. Cattlebrook John, the koala brought in with lethargy, is being released soon. Barb's theory is that he was probably hit by a car and his lethargy was due to shock. At first, Barb wasn't hopeful for him, but he appears to have bounced back greatly and will be released today.

I also learn that Macquarie Peter is being set free! It's a bittersweet feeling; I'm glad he's well enough to leave us. A majestic koala like Peter deserves to be climbing trees out in the bush, not stuck on a forked branch on a makeshift gunyah. Naturally, I will miss him though: he was the first koala I "bagged" and brought from ICU to the aviaries and then cared for him out here in the yards. After I finish replenishing the other yards with leaf, I do a final clean out of his yard. His water bowl is emptied, scrubbed and turned upright atop a pot-holder. The remaining leaf is thrown out and those pots scrubbed and reversed too. In the fork of the branch where he perpetually sat, I see that he has left me a little present: three little pellets of koala poop nestle there. I'm momentarily taken back to easter egg hunts as a child...

Andrea comes out to give the koalas their medication. I ask her about Oxley Jo whose wet bottom still looks quite 'angry' to me. Andrea says it would be better for her to be in an inside unit where they could keep a better watch on her, but given the space restraints, she needs to be out here. She's responding okay. There's a misconception that she's not eating much leaf; she's only a small koala and therefore isn't going to be putting away the eucalyptus of an 8kg male.

I tell her about how changeable Ellenborough Nancy was when I tended to her last week. On Thursday, she was at my throat; on Friday, she sat meekly on her gunyah without a peep. Andrea said her behaviour can be dicated by her oestrous cycle, basically the koala time of the month. How interesting koalas are!

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