As I enter, Condon Geoff is seated behind a veil of uneaten Swamp Mahogany and naked leaf fronds looking like a koala version of Buddha. He stares at me beatifically from his verdant mount as I start to rake up his soggy newspaper and the random smattering of poo, like so many spent shell casings.
I can't resist popping my head in yard 9 to see if O'Briens Fiona is on the move. As usual, she's scuttling around begging for formula. I ask Geoff if he'd like some made up; I retire to the dayroom and beat up her double-dose of formula. By the time I get to yard 9, she's up a tree again. Fickle Fiona.
At these close quarters, I find myself looking at Kempsey's eyes. Koala eyes are brown with a black almond-shape set vertically like a cat's. Kempsey's right eye is completely absent; all that remains is a sunken warp in the fur where the eye once was. I remember one of the uni vets telling me that the dead eye is worked out by the body (a case of abjection, if there ever was one); it heals over cleaner than any suture. Kempsey's left eye is intact, but blind. Instead of the almond cat's iris, there is a dun-coloured disc like a brown dilated pupil.
Dribbling aside, Kempsey is a pleasure to feed. She doesn't behave like the other, wild, koalas. She seems to have succumbed readily to her five-star care at the hospital. She accepts back scratches and chin tickles without resistance. Even wiping her face with a wet washer following her feed is a breeze compared to the other patients who usually move their face from side to side to avoid it: imagine the irritated face of a child submitting to having its face wiped by an overzealous mother.
Jarrod has finished in yards 4 and 6, so I duck my head into the aviaries to see if I can lend a hand. There are still three aviaries to do so I elect to clean the non-wet-bottoms, since I'm heading back into the healthy koalas yards again later when the new leaf arrives. Condon Geoff is in an aviary undergoing post-treatment monitoring. It seems that he has been successfully treated and, all going well, will be released soon. I'm especially pleased for him since he was the koala who seemed among the keenest to leave ICU.
From koalawrangler's gallery.
As I enter, he's seated behind a veil of uneaten Swamp Mahogany and naked leaf fronds looking like a koala version of Buddha. He stares at me beatifically from his verdant mount as I start to rake up his soggy newspaper and the random smattering of poo, like so many spent shell casings.
I keep out of his way, taking the other leaf pot, emptying it, scrubbing out the leaf scum and refilling it in preparation for the fresh leaf. After the recent rain, the dirt comes up in moist chunks with the trowel. I refill his water bowl and turn to leaf.
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Bellevue Bill gets sight of me from the aviary opposite. He stalks along his gunyah towards me like I have something he's after. Bill gets fed each day by the uni researchers. They're trialling him with some oral medication so perhaps he thinks I might have some tucker for him.
I'm crouched on the ground relaying Terry's paper. I look up and he's staring down at me quizzically. I wonder what they make of the daily ablutions we carry out for them. It's a hospital, so they get fresh water, dirt, leaf and floor coverings every day, 365 days a year. I tell him the leaf won't be long now.
With the leaf ready to go, we go back to the outside yards. Kempsey is ranging about on her gunyah so I feed her first, followed by the joeys. Next I fill Condon Geoff's empty pot. He gradually moves across to it, but tramples over the old leaf as he goes. I try gingerly to remove the old pot so that I can refill it with new leaf, but he eeps in protest. Okay, be that way. I remove the pot and leave behind the leaf he's sitting on, until he's distracted enough with eating the new leaf for me to whip the old out from under him.
Click here to view more of today's koala hospital photos.