Thursday, 8 March 2007

Distracting Jo

In both units I discover little caches of koala poo tucked into corners or squeezed under the wooden beams. Koala surprise!

Lookout Harry
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Today I'm back in the aviaries, which is fine since I've not mucked these out for a while. Tricia and Danae are in yard 9, Paul's doing yards 1-3 and Ross is in yard 10 on his own, which he prefers. Amanda is training up John, who usually does data entry in the office; they're doing yards 5 and 6. Amanda tells me not to do Lookout Harry's aviary since he's being moved to a yard; no point in bothering him if he's going to new digs. This leaves three other units: Oceanview Terry, Bellevue Bill and da da da daaa Ellenborough Nancy. I always seem to leave Nancy till last for some reason...

Just before I start on Terry, Jo the vet calls to me for a hand with Oxley Jo. Many of the koalas on the Sydney uni drug trials get shots administered by the vets. Oxley Jo has this habit of not taking her eyes off you the whole time you're in her yard; her eyes follow you like those old paintings in gothic horror stories... This makes it hard to administer her medication. Jo wants me to 'distract' Oxley Jo while she gives her the shot. Ulp! Okay.

Predictably, Oxley Jo twists her little head to follow vet Jo when she enters the yard. But I've complicated matters by bringing up the rear; there's one of us front and back: she doesn't know which way to look. I start acting like a crazy woman, waving my arms in front of her face and going "la la la la" -- anything to keep her focused on me. When she turns towards vet Jo, I gently touch her paws and to keep her facing the front. It's all over as quickly as it's begun, but I tell Jo that she's still foiled my hopes of winning Oxley Jo over for good.

Back in the aviaries, Terry is conveniently down on the left by his leaf pot. This leaves me free to clean down the other end. Water and dirt put out the door, check. One leaf pot emptied and scrubbed, check. Poopy paper raked up and in the bin, check. Fortunately, his gunyah doesn't need a towel so it's a fast turnaround.

Jarrod has finished yard 4 and so starts in the aviaries. I'm out dumping some old leaf in the skip and return to find him rolling up Lookout Harry's paper. I quickly let him know that we're leaving him till last due to his impending move. Jarrod starts on Bellevue Bill.

I go into the day-room for a swig of water and see Cheyne in the treatment room with a sickly looking koala. He's sitting on the treatment table lapping up formula from a syringe. I remark that he looks so tame; Cheyne says that "tame" is never a term you want to find yourself using about a wild koala. It's Anna Bay Miles, the one whose diagnosis is "debilitated". He keeps backing away from the syringe so I step in to stand behind him and keep him on the bench. He's a wet bottom and the smell is overpowering. I really hope he'll be able to turn a corner, but the prognosis isn't good. Cheyne suggests I take off my smock, which has been pressed against Miles' wet bottom, to prevent infecting any of the other koalas.

Anna Bay Miles
Anna Bay Miles
From koalawrangler's gallery.


Jo comes into the aviaries to medicates the required koalas. Lookout Harry is unimpressed. Ellenborough Nancy is placid, but swings around at the last minute and prevents Jo from finishing the dose. I wouldn't want to take Nancy on when she's got a grump on. Now it's time for me to brave Ellenborough Nancy's unit. Ulp. She's actually in the corner, against the wall, which allows me to completely strip one side of her gunyah and replace the towel. The leaf isn't ready yet so most of the team takes an early tea break.

When I return with newspaper for Nancy's floor, she's still down the unclean end. I decide to wait till she moves of her own accord with the lure of fresh leaf before tackling the remaining towel. We learn that the leaf has arrived and suddenly all the racks are full of fluffy leaf and everyone is clipping away. Amanda is giving John her usual rigorous leaf-cutting tuition. I ask John if this is his first day in the yards, after his indoor duties. I tell him that this is the cutting edge of koala-wranging. "At the coal-face", he says". The koala-face, more like :)

Ellenborough Nancy
Ellenborough Nancy
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Nancy finally moves so I can finish her gunyah. When I go in to stock up Oceanview Terry's leaf, he's still hovering around the remaining leaf pot. I talk to him quietly and gently brush his back so he knows I'm there. I reach for his leaf pot and startle him (despite what I thought was a huge build-up!). For one horrifying second, it looks like he's about to fall off his perch; instead he swivels from on top of the gunyah to beneath it, hanging on grimly. Oh no, I've knocked a sick koala off his gunyah! Well, not knocked, but frightened perhaps. Poor fellow! He climbs back up without incident, but I give him losts of fluffy wet leaf to compensate.

Lookout Harry is roaming around his unit; he's probably after some fresh leaf. He keeps standing on his hind legs and peering through the mesh. Lookout Harry, on the lookout. Amanda comes to retrieve him in a bag and shift him to yard 10. All that remains is for his aviary to be given a full clean. I need to check with Amanda exactly what is involved. I check with Jackie in ICU whether I can help with the units in there. Sandfly Jye has been moved so his unit needs a full clean also. I start mopping with bleach water, the walls and skirting boards. It's hard work.

I take a tea break in the dayroom and flick through the post-mortem reports which the vets file in a plastic binder for the vollies' information. Through it, I learn that Melaleuca Alfie, the one with damaged genitals from where a car clipped him, has been euthanased. He was such a bright koala; it's hard to see his life cut short. I ask Jo why these are called "necropsy" reports and not "autopsy". It's because the prefix "auto-" means "self"; a human carrying out a post-mortem on another person is an autopsy since they are the same species. Necropsies are carried out on other species.

I finish mopping Sandfly Jye's unit and soak his pots, broom and dust-pan in bleach and water. I do the same for Lookout Henry's aviary. Mopping out the aviary is even harder work that the unit. The mop is almost too long, yet I have to negotiate it around the walls, which are covered in mud from Harry's antics. In both units I discover little caches of koala poo tucked into corners or squeezed under the wooden beams. Koala surprise!

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