Sunday, 25 March 2007

Wet koalas, wet koalawranglers

I'm talking to one visitor about koalas with wet-bottom, but she suddently breaks off the conversation to report, "SorrySorry, at first I thought it was a leaf but, actually, you have a praying mantis on your head".
Lookout Harry
Lookout Harry
From koalawrangler's gallery.
It poured rain all night, accompanied by a wild wind that disconcerted the cat. She cried out several times during the night and demanded comforting. During these wakeful moments I wondered whether the koalas were okay during the blustery night.

I woke early and got to the hospital at 7.45. Strangely, Peter, the Sunday team leader wasn't there yet. I walked around the grounds and all koalas seemed well, albeit a little damp. Sandfly Jye and Birthday Girl were the only two koalas who were completely awake. Still no sign of Peter which was really peculiar. Jo, another volunteer, arrived and she gave Pete a buzz on his mobile. "Oh", I heard her say. "Daylight saving's ended". That's right, the clocks went back during the early hours of this morning. It wasn't now 8am, it was 7am! D'oh.

Shamefaced, I ask Peter if there's anything useful I can do to fill in the next hour, like rinse the feedpots of their anti-bac. He says, sure, and I can make up today's feed as well. I feel well practised after closely watching Amanda mixing up the feed, and then preparing it myself last Thursday. It's complicated though -- different dosages, different types of formula, some are administered by vollies, some by vets. So I talk to myself throughout the process, wetting face-washers to go under each filled pot. There's a black lump in the sink which, when I tweeze it out with my fingers, I recognise as being a tick. It might have fallen off one of yesterday's vollies.

Sandfly Jye
Sandfly Jye
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Emma and I are assigned to yard 10. It's started raining again and I'm relieved to have my plastic poncho. Emma starts to feed Ocean Therese and I head in to feed Sandfly Jye. He's perched on his gunyah among the leaf fronds and accepts the first syringe of formula. He jerks his arm towards me, not in a swipe, but probably to grip onto me as he would while eating leaf. It becomes awkward to feed him this way as my arms are bare, so I give up until a little later when he's more in the mood to feed.

By now, Emma is feeding Tractive Golfer who is sitting on the edge of his gunyah where he's getting rained on. She's got no wet-weather gear and is getting wetter by the minute. I start to rake out Ocean Therese's yard -- she's also drenched but outside her the shelter of her leaf, hugging a tree. A rainjacket-clad Andrea comes through to do her rounds. I try to feed Jye some more. He's moved up to the highest fork of the gunyah, shirking the shelter of the overhanging branches of leaf. This time, he drinks more readily and lets me finish the pot.


Sandfly Jye
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.
As I set out to sweep his yard, he jumps down to the lower beam and leans towards me. He's a funny one in terms of instigating human contact, chasing me around his gunyah the other day. I don't know if it's possible for him to jump on me...well, I know it's quite possible, I just don't know if he'd do it. I give him a wide berth and he scales down to the ground. At first he runs towards me, so I squat down to his level while I scrub out one of this leaf pots. I'm able to stand up and go about my cleaning and he generally leaves me alone; occasionally I feel a claw on my sock, but that's about it. He's bounding around his yard, scampering through puddles, not noticing the rain.

Sandfly Jye
Sandfly Jye
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.

Lookout Harry and Warrego Martin are next. I swing Harry's umbrella around to shield him better from the rain. I empty one of his pots, revealing a cache of koala pellets in the fork of the beams once the leaf has shifted. Harry's face is encircled by leaf. Martin is cozy under his umbrella -- the only koala in the yard who's managed to stay completely dry. As I rake around his yard, he decides I've encroached his personal space and heads north...up to the spokes of his umbrella.

Warrego Martin
Warrego Martin
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Emma has looked after the koalas at the other end of yard 10: Links Lorna and Ocean Roy. We're now both drenched, despite our rain ponchos. We head inside for a cuppa and to dry off. Jim ducks his head into the day-room to ask if there's a trick to moving a koala off his towel. Jim's in ICU, warm and dry. I tease him that there are benefits to arriving late. He's replaced one of the towels on Anna Bay Miles's gunyah, but the koala is facing away from the direction Jim wants him to go and refusing to budge. I recall that Miles likes Melaleuca blosssoms so I head out to the leaf shed and try to hunt some out. I return with a branch. Miles nibbles the blossom enthusiastically, but won't be lured away. I suggest to Jim that he just leaves him; it's more distressing to force a koala to move that doesn't want to. He'll move when he's ready.

Danae is finished in the yards too, so she, Emma and I pitch in to help finish the units in ICU before the fresh leaf arrives. Emma takes Jupiter Cheryl, Danae takes Morrish Steven, and I take Calwalla Bill. His unit is wonderfully dry and quite clean. He hasn't kicked over his dirt or water, like many of the ICU koalas do; but, after I sweep away his paper and poop, he continues to drop pellets like airborne missiles, the same as on Friday.

Ocean Therese
Ocean Therese
From koalawrangler's gallery.
The leaf arrives and we re-don our ponchos and head back to the swamp of yard 10. We're realy drenched now, despite the wet-weather gear. Ocean Therese is still wrapped around her tree out in the rain, even though I replenish her leaf. Her fur looks soggy; I can squeeze it between my fingers and watch the rivulets run off. I could probably wring her out. She seems unpeturbed.

We do our best to give the koalas tall branches that droop to provide plenty of shelter. I struggle to stock Sandfly Jye's highest pot as I get asked a few questions by the tourists. I'm talking to one visitor about koalas with wet-bottom, but she suddently breaks off the conversation to report, "Sorry, at first I thought it was a leaf but, actually, you have a praying mantis on your head". I calmly call to Emma to get it off me. She doesn't want to touch it and flicks it off with a bunch of leaf.



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