Monday, 30 April 2007

Taking Nancy home

There has been a catalogue of koala machismo in the ICU, from dirt-tipping and horny grunting sounds to the pawing/chasing/foot-nibbling by that lothario Morrish Steven towards Emma, one of the other vollies. Now I'm convinced he's Jim Morrison's koala reincarnation.
I scan the whiteboard to get a quick feel for the lay of the land: who's moved, who's been shipped out. I see a note next to Ocean Therese's name. Her transfer to the Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary at Calga (near Gosford) has been approved. No! I knew it was coming but how I will miss that fuzzy little face around here! I see from their website that she will have an ex-Koala Hospital companion in a fellow called Keith the koala, formerly known as Parklands Keith. He looks a nice chap, a bit like Wiruna Lucky (if that's his picture on the homepage). I can see a trip to Gosford some time in the future to visit our Therese.

There are FOUR koalas being released today! Three uni koalas from yard 10 -- Ellenborough Nancy, Ocean Roy and Oceanview Terry; as well as one KPS koala from ICU, Lake Private. Wow! I'm so glad for them. I remember when it was almost a full house in here a couple of months ago; now that mating season is over and we're heading into Winter, the koala traffic is due to slow down.

I'm not assigned to yard 10 today, but I decide to head up there to say goodbye to Therese, Roy, Nancy and Terry. When I get up there, Therese is asleep and curled into a grey ball. Innes Tony, however, new transferee to yard 10, is wide awake and looking handsome on his lofty perch (in Sandfly Jye's old spot). It's like I'm seeing Tony in a whole new light -- literally. Whenever koalas are transferred from the ICU or aviaries into the yards, they take on a more vivid aspect. They're also generally further along in their recuperation so, coupled with the warm morning light, they positively beam when they're out here. Today is a bit grey and rain is threatening, but Tony looks proud of his new digs. Ocean Roy is on the lookout for any activity from the yard.

I've been assigned the joeys and ICU. Being assigned the joeys doesn't necessarily mean ever seeing the joeys (except as fuzzy grey blobs clinging to their treetops). Today is not different; there's no sign of them, just their mess: the telltale evidence of their nocturnal leaf party. The choice tips are gnawed off the branches, the twigs are snapped in their stampede to fresh leaf, and the ground is covered in poo and half-chewed leaves. It's the koala equivalent of a bunch of kids leaving empty chip packets and half-drunk cans of cola on the floor of the rumpus room.

Indeed, it's like they're in training for the carry-on that we've been witnessing in the ICU lately. By yesterday morning, Morrish Steven had completely stripped the towels from his gunyah and torn the bark from the wood underneath. I'm reliably informed that Calwalla Bill and Lake Private did the same. Cheyne says she's been observing this behaviour in the ICU for a few days now and has finally put two and two together. For the last week or so, these boys have been sharing ICU with Oxley Nina, a girl koala... Three males sharing a confined space with one female means they've got something to prove about koala manhood.

If they were deer, they'd be locking antlers; if they were birds, they'd be puffing out their chest feathers; if they were gorillas, they'd be beating their chests; if they were stockbrokers, they'd be bragging about their big share portfolios. Yes, these boy koalas have been showing off to impress Nina. Big time. All this room-trashing behaviour is about proving to Oxley Nina which one of them is the big koala on campus. (Do they know she's *lowering my voice* with child?!). There has been a catalogue of koala machismo in the ICU, from dirt-tipping and horny grunting sounds to the pawing/chasing/foot-nibbling by that lothario Morrish Steven towards Emma, one of the other vollies. Now I'm convinced he's Jim Morrison's koala reincarnation.

Since Nina was released, and it's boys-only in ICU, they've returned to their usual ball-scratching nonchalance. (It's true, they do that a lot). I look in on Morrish Steven and his unit is pristine; so is Bill's and Private's.

It's Lake Private's last morning with us before his release, so he gets a special goodbye feed. His last supper in captivity. I've never actually fed Private before and it's funny how koalas vary in their feeding manners. He's eager but gentle at the same time. I have a little trouble with the syringe (the black stopper keeps coming off in the tube and I have to replace it). Private waits patiently between squirts. All the while I'm feeding, Private is squeezing out poo pellets like a production line. Wow, now that's feeling at ease in your surroundings. I'm not sure how I should feel about it. Suddenly, he jolts away from the syringe as though something unexpected has happened; I look down -- now he's peeing. He's been taken surprise by his own peeing mechanism. We both wait until he finishes peeing and recommence feeding. Ah, to be an animal and have no responsibility for personal hygiene or social norms.

Since Private's being released today, I don't need to clean his unit until he's gone. Instead I start on Calwalla Bill. There are no issues, despite the "strike out" warning on his door. He moves when I need him to, following the leaf pot to where I've moved it down the clean end of the gunyah. I can see that Morrish Steven is much mellower as well. I have to feed Steven as well and he is notable for his good behaviour: no grabbing. He still reaches out towards me when there's a break in the formula flow, but it's not the swipey urgency I've seen him demonstrate before. I notice that he's given his syringe quite a serve in the past though. The nib is scarred where he's gnawed at it on his back teeth. But he's gotten better at feeding now; he doesn't try to draw the syringe into his mouth like he used to. I can hear him slurping the liquid in and then stopping to swallow. I stop the flow each time I hear him do that. After feeding, Steven is completely mellow, even cracking a yawn before settling down for snooze.

I have a brief chat with Peter while I'm out cutting leaf. He's heading to Ellenborough to release Ellenborough Nancy. I would dearly love to accompany him since I've never been on a release before. I've also had a bit to do with Nancy while she's been in here. I was convinced she didn't like me for a while, after she took a swipe at me one day in the aviaries. I've since learned not to take such behaviour to heart. (That's right: Linksy doesn't really love me and Ellenborough Nancy doesn't really hate me; we're just leaf purveyors or annoyances to them. It's nothing personal!) Because Nancy heralds from a very rural part of the Hastings (unlike Port where koalas and humans tend to cohabit), she struggled more than most with the confines necessary for her treatment. It was satisfying to see her moved from an enclosed aviary to an outside yard, now I'd like to see her returned to her real home in the wilds of Ellenborough.

I watch as Judy brings Nancy into the treatment room in a bag. You know it's her by the way she's squirming under the canvas. She's not a koala to take any kind of confinement lightly. Judy wants to give her a final weigh-in before her release, but Nancy won't settle in the bag. When she's put on the scales her head pokes out the top and the handlers have to do their best to contain her just long enough to get the reading. Judy removes her from the bag, bearing her towards her basket in the customary fashion by her forearms; all the while, Nancy's twisting her back legs wildly trying to catch her capturer with claws. Ellenborough Nancy is a basket-case to the very end. The sooner we get this wild thing back to her wilds, the better!

I ask Tracy and Chris if they wouldn't mind cleaning out the final unit in ICU -- Walcha Barbie's -- so that I can head off with Pete. They're happy to, so we head off to Ellenborough with Nancy soundless in her covered basket on the backseat. It's a 57km drive to Ellenborough. Up the Oxley Highway, the urbanisation of Port quickly retreats and we find ourselves amid towering trees. It's alternately sprinkling and raining steadily. Fortunately, Nancy's been getting used to the rain so the transition won't be as great for her as for, say, Lake Private, who's been warmly ensconced in an inside unit while at the hospital.

I've got a map drawn up my Cheyne showing where Nancy was originally found, which was near the Ellenborough police station. Pete and I wonder about how she was brought in; Pete conjectures that perhaps a copper rang it in. I imagine it went down something like this:

"Hello, koala hospital? We've got a really ornery koala here in the lock-up..."

If her antics in the avaries are anything to go by, I can imagine her rattling her metal cup along the bars with the best of them.

Ellenborough Reserve
Ellenborough Nancy's new backyard
From koalawrangler's gallery.

As we approach Long Flat, the trees start to really soar and there's mist hanging down from the mountains like cobwebs. Clouds obscure the peaks. It's beginning to rain more heavily, but we're here now with a koala who's freedom is in sight.

Pete carries her basket towards a huge nicholii tree, a perennial koala favourite. We decide, however, that the trunk is a bit broad. Nancy's been used to gripping a narrow gunyah so we want to give her something a little easier to climb on her first day out. We move around the edge of the reserve, nearer a great density of trees and find the perfect tree. Pete strips off any loose bark that might get in her way. The tree's not too wide and has a low fork for Nancy's to nestle into. Here's how it went down:

Peter with Ellenborough Nancy in her release basketEllenborough NancyEllenborough NancyEllenborough NancyEllenborough Nancy
Ellenborough NancyEllenborough NancyEllenborough NancyEllenborough NancyEllenborough Nancy

It took her a few seconds to come to grips with her new surroundings (remember: she'd been in the dark in the back of a car for the last 45 minutes). Then, instead of climbing the tree we'd prepared earlier, she takes off out of the basket, scampers across the path and takes off up another tree. The's a tricky sheet of dangling bark she has to negotiate her way around, but we can see her arm muscles working. Watching her dig in with her claws reminds me somewhat of a rock-climber securing each precarious step with a spikey boot in the rockface. She looks like an old hand at it and I stand and watch her careful progress, ignoring the increasing rain. Nancy stops and peers down at me and Pete every once in a while. It's like she's saying, "Can I really stay here?".

By the time, we head back to the car, she's extraordinarily high up and perched in a sturdy tree fork. I'm shocked by how small she looks in her new, majestic and endless surrounds. She's like a tiny speck in the wilderness, which she's once more an organic part of. Good luck to you, Ellenborough Nancy!

Ellenborough Nancy
Ellenborough Nancy in her new home
From koalawrangler's gallery.

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

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Introducing the new and improved Anna Bay Miles

With the new leaf in place, I may as well not even exist; I'm koala non grata. So perhaps what Cheyne's been saying all along really is true: Linksy doesn't actually love me for myself, but only for my eucalyptus! How crushing to be so used and brutally tossed aside by one so adorable. Linksy, you heart-breaker, love-taker.
I see from the noticeboard that Walcha Barbie has been moved from Barb's place to ICU. I go in to check on how she's settled in. There's a pot of leaf on the floor as well as in the usual bracket up higher. Despite her bandaged arm, she's just climbed up onto her gunyah from the ground. She looks just a like a bandaged bear; in fact, she could be a model for the koala on the official Koala Hospital T-shirt.

Across the hallway, I see that Morrish Steven has given his gunyah the disgruntled rockstar treatment again. He's managed to tear both towels off the middle of his gunyah, exposing the bare -- if a little gnawed -- wood. Innes Tony's empty unit suggests he's been shipped out or worse, but there's no word about that in the daybook. It turns how he's graduated to yard 10. Yay! Another koala on the road to recovery. I wonder how he's been enjoying the rain?

The boys (Jarrod & Paul) have put in a request to do yard 10, so I'm assigned the few front yards -- 3, 4 & 5. Kempsey is sleeping when I enter with her food. I remove the leaf pot nearest to her to give the tourists at the fence a gander while I feed her. She's getting better at it (or I am), less dribbles out although she's still got it all over her chin by the time she's done.

Links VTR
Links VTR
From koalawrangler's gallery.

While I'm feeding, I hear a scampering noise behind me. It's Linksy! He's perched on the tree in his yard, looking longingly towards Kempsey and me (and, more importantly, the food pot). I'm conscious of his interest the whole time I'm syphoning formula into Kempsey's mouth. Every time I turn to look behind me, there's Linksy, salivating, with an "I'll have what she's having" expression on his little face. Eventually he loses interest and ascends the tree to a higher branch; or he's being nonchalant -- we'll see what he's like as soon as fresh leaf is on offer.

Links VTR
Links VTR
From koalawrangler's gallery.

The leaf is ready to go early this morning so the yards get serviced according to the book; that is, I can finish feeding, raking, feeding, and leafing Kempsey's yard completely before proceeding to the next. While I'm at the leaf rack preparing today's branches, Links is overseeing my progress from his tree lookout. He seems almost ecstatic to see that it's finally his turn. He hightails it down the tree, peering towards me with interest. It's a race to get the leaf in the pot fast enough before Linksy is upon me, chomping apparatus at the ready.

With the new leaf in place, I may as well not even exist; I'm koala non grata. So perhaps what Cheyne's been saying all along really is true: Linksy doesn't actually love me for myself, but only for my eucalyptus! How crushing to be so used and brutally tossed aside by one so adorable. Linksy, you heart-breaker, love-taker. No longer of any use to him, he parks his tush on the gunyah and settles in for a good graze. I stare dejectedly at him for a few minutes, before shuffling away to the compost to empty Little Lord Linksleroy's poo bucket. At least I still have that honour. Sniff.

At the poo bin, I meet Chris who's involved in bush regeneration to ensure there will be plenty of koala food for years to come. He explains that, with a bit of chemical help, the koala poo breaks down nicely into soil and is returned to the earth to help grow more eucalypts. What a great little ecosystem.

Next is the latest hospital success story, Anna Bay Miles. I'd noticed that Emma had been taking some great snaps of Anna Bay Miles, since he'd been moved outside. You'd never know to look at his left eye that he'd every had conjunctivitis. There's also a healthy grey colour seeping back into his fur. It was nice to spend some time with him today.

Unlike Lord Linksy, Miles slept through the leaf preparations for the other two yards. His food pot was in the treatment room as it has some medicine added by the hospital supervisor. Cheyne was pleased to report that his formula dose has been reduced by half and he no longer requires the nutritional gel supplement he's been on since arrival. He's starting to flesh out nicely, better filling the frame of the adult male that he is.

I have to coax Miles awake, but when he comes to, he's very interested in the food. I'm astonished by the creamy grey colour of his facial fur and the glossy blackness of his nose. Like most koalas, he has a fuzzy pink chin and a pink tongue that darts in and out of his mouth while he feeds. He is an insistent feeder now, gripping the wide part of the syringe in his teeth (which is a no-no). I do my best to only dip the slim end of the syringe in his mouth, but it's like he wants to chew the whole thing up. He also dribbles some of back up, which I try to catch in the pot. Some of it lands on my hand; it's warm from his mouth. Didn't Miles attend Cheyne's koala-feeding class? hey, wait a minute, he was actually the "demonstration koala" who fed so compliantly! What's happened!?) Despite flouting all the feeding rules, it's great to see him being so pushy now, after his former passivity.

As soon as the food's finished, Miles returns to his sleeping cocoon-shape. Unfortunately, I still need to disrupt him a little in order to replenish his leaf pots. He's wedged himself between a pot and a gunyah beam; I have to dislodge the pot from behind his back, but he manages to remain in his curled up position. Replacing the pot is another story; this elicits a little grunt as he shuffles off down the other end of the gunyah for some peace and quiet.

He goes to climb through the other leaf pot, now filled with towering fresh leaf. In doing so, he puts his wait on a branch which promptly snaps. Miles loses his balance and dangles precariously, hanging onto the gunyah with his curved claws. His round bottom is swinging before me as he endeavours to clamber back on the gunyah. I cup my hands around it and give him a little supportive heave-ho until he finds purchase back on the gunyah. Funny little acrobat.

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

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Koala twins

Twin koala joeys have been born to a koala in China! Six koalas were donated by the Queensland government to the Xiangjiang Safari Park last year. One of these koalas is the proud mother of the two joeys.

It's the first time that twin koalas have been born naturally in captivity.

A Hong Kong pop duo called, originally, "Twins", want to pay for the pair's upkeep (and possibly a college education).

See a cute pic of the babies here.

Friday, 27 April 2007


Lighthouse Steffi saturated

My KoalaWhere arrived today. It's a small toy koala dressed in an aviator outfit and proceeds from the sale of each KoalaWhere go to support the Australian Koala Foundation.

The idea is that you take KoalaWhere with you when you go on holidays, particularly overseas, and then you include your KoalaWhere in your photos. (I can imagine going quite overboard with this.) You then upload your photos to the KoalaWhere online KoalaAlbums. Here is a KoalaWhere holidaying in Patagonia. Here's another at the Great Wall of China. Here's another one in Vanuatu. There's even one taken at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie with our dearly departed Cloudie!

You can buy your own KoalaWhere online at

I've named ours Lighthouse Steffi in honour of Settlement Point Steffi, a little joey we had at the koala hospital earlier in the year who was sadly past saving.

Click here to view more of today's KoalaWhere snaps of Lighthouse Steffi.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Bye Jye

...beware vets harbouring injections. Sounds like something you'd read in an animal fortune cookie: Confucious say, wise koala beware vet with sneaky needle. Caveat Koalor?
I got to the hospital at 8am and was only the third vollie to arrive. I had seen Cheryle walking up Lord Street, so she wasn't far behind. I also assured Pete that Emma wouldn't miss the possibility of a koala photo sesh for the world!

I'm in yard 10 with Jim. He's already up there and has swept Golfer's astroturf and generated his recycle pot from yesterday's leaf. The koala himself is curled up in one of his favourite spots, high in a tree overlooking the yard. He's asleep and looks almost teddy-bearish from our vantage point on the ground.

I start with angelic little Jo who is sleeping under her bower of recycled leaf. First I take the two white pots and reserve the best of these for her recycled shelter. Jo's recycle pot is the the best position to create a flourishing umbrella of cover. When I remove her central recycle pot she still clings nakedly to her central fork, looking up at me with interest as I replenish the pot with newly trimmed and dampened recycled leaf.

Oxley Jo
Oxley Jo
From koalawrangler's gallery.

She's not the jumpy koala she once was. Firstly, she's been here a little while now so she's gotten used to the daily ablutions we perform around her. And, secondly, she's now post-treatment so no need to beware vets harbouring injections. Sounds like something you'd read in an animal fortune cookie: Confucious say, wise koala beware vet sneaky with needle. Caveat Koalor? I'm dying to give her a little head scratch, but decide I really shouldn't. She's destined for freedom so it's better for her if I keep my distance.

Jim's just raked out Lookout Harry's yard and is now in with Oceanview Terry. He's produced a spray of leaf studded with sprigs of flowering swamp mahogany for Terry's recycle pot. Terry returns the favour by plonking his bum down in the centre of it like it's a leafy beanbag.

We pause to reflect on the latest absentee from yard 10: Sandfly Jye was released yesterday (as was Koalasaurus Inches). We'll both miss little piggy-nosed Jye. Jim has a theory about why he used to chase us around so much. Jim reckons Jye must have been used to human society in his home-range. Perhaps he lived near a school or where he was around people. Did Sandfly Jye have a people posse? He certainly seemed keen for companionship the way he would leap off his gunyah and barrel towards anyone who would enter his yard to clean. Jim said he also submitted to a tick check the other day, seeming to enjoy the attention and the head scratch that went with it.

Ellenborough Nancy
Ellenborough Nancy
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I head down towards the far end of yard 10 to start on Ellenborough Nancy. Nancy is a changed woman. Not only is her weepy eye looking 100% better, she somehow looks more relaxed out here in the yards after her stint in the aviaries. She looks like a different koala out here in the daylight: her ears are perky and her chest fur is like a gleaming white vest. She watches me keenly when I enter her yard so I keep my distance. Unlike Jye, she's definitely not interested in striking up a friendship, which is the way koalas should be! As I potter around her yard, Nancy makes her way to the ground. When I look over at her, she is standing upright like a meerkat with her paws folded in front of her. She looks up at the tree as if she's wondering "can I get out that way?". It's covered in a metal casing higher up to prevent climbing.

Nancy sits contemplating her tree until I fill her recycle pot. Because this pot is taped to the branch, I have to schlep the hose down from the other end of yard 10. We can't clean these pots properly; all we can do is squirt them till they overflow to refresh the water in there. With the spritzed recycle leaf, Nancy returns to her gunyah. I recall Andrea's mentioning that Nancy's yard sported a fine specimen of a St Andrew's Cross spider, and there it is suspended against the metal fence.

Yard 10's done until we get the new leaf so I head into ICU. I start on Calwalla Bill's unit, mindful of the warning that he's struck out at a vollie before. He's conveniently down one end so I whip off the towel and replace it. Bill lets me clean his unit without incident and I start on Oxley Nina (the one with the suspected joey in her pouch) across the hallway.

Nina stays out of my way too while I straighten her room (yes, sometimes I feel like I'm a koala chambermaid). All goes well until it's time to mop her floor. At this point, she decides to head down to see what I'm up to. This is less than convenient since I'm standing at the door, mop in hand, waiting to start. She trots over towards me to inspect the bucket. I try to convince her to regain her gunyah, but it take a few minutes of her investigations before I can proceed. Finally, when I think she's going northward, she simply wraps her hands and feet around the lower beam and sits there with her bum poised over the drain. It's the kind of thing I would expect of Ocean Therese.

While I've been dealing with Nina's shenanigans, the leaf has arrived. I head back to yard 10 where Jim's got the leaf replenishment under way. Ocean Therese has been asleep all morning and only comes to when I enter her yard with fresh leaf. She has a sleepy, squint-eyed look about her. She even eeps a little when I shift her old leaf pot, to my chagrin.

In the dayroom, Pete hands me a feedpot. We were waiting all morning for Tractive Golfer to come down to drink his formula, but he had remained in his tree loft. When Pete was up in yard 10, Golfer had made his appearance. Jim has left already so it's down to me. I ask Emma if she'd like to feed him -- of course she would: it's another photo opportunity.

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

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Hospital for...possums?

I wasn't able to fend off the non-koala part of my life the last two Thursdays and so missed my koala shift on both those days. (I told Amanda in advance, of course.) So today I'm back giving the understudy teamleader thing a go.

Anna Bay Miles is now in an outside yard looking positively glowing in the morning sun. He is a changed koala. I remember having his wet bottom resting against my smock while Cheyne fed him on the treatment bench. There was quite a stink coming from his wet bottom. His fur was discoloured which can occur when a koala is very unwell. I remember the strange blonde colour of Dunbogan Val's fur, a little koala I encountered when I first started working at the hospital.

As Amanda and I walk about with our leaf chart, I realise that Linksy has moved from yard 9a to his own digs in yard 4, so there'll be no more adorable scenes of joey love between him and Kimmy for us to fawn over.

Jackie greets me with the rhetorical "another beautiful day in heaven" -- I have to agree with her.

I'm in yard 10 with Vanessa. Golfer is down on his gunyah for a change so I start to feed him, while Vanessa feeds Sandfly Jye. As Golfer feeds, I notice an indentation in his fur. It's a huge tick pulsing near the skin. It's on his arm, so I don't want to risk digging for it. Andrea's doing her rounds in the yard. I ask her to pull it off while I distract him with formula. Even with the distraction, he takes a swipe at a Andrea. She's too quick for him though and comes away wielding the full tick in her fingers.

Ocean Therese is in fine form. She reaches out for me, gently swiping for attention. Beatrice is also helping in the yard. She tells me that Jye is doing something strange. He's sitting in the corner of his yard again, looking like a yogi in the lotus position.

Oxley Jo is curled up like a baby bunting (with the fur wrap built in). She regards me sleepily.

Oxley Jo
Oxley Jo
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I mention Jye's behaviour to Cheyne and Andrea in the treatment room. Cheyne says it's important to bring it to their attention if we think the koalas are doing something strange. Andrea thinks it's because Jye's bored; he's on the last phase of his treatment and is just marking time before release back into the wild.

We have an early tea break in the dayroom. I ask Andrea about a few of the other patients. I'm concerned about the beautiful Bellevue Bill and his kidney damage. Innes Tony has kidney damage too, but his prognosis doesn't seem to be as poor as Bill's. Fortunately it's not curtains yet for Bill though; he may yet turn a corner.

I ask the other vollies if anyone has seen Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The scene where Borat tries to capture Pamela Anderson in his wedding sack reminded in a comically exaggerated way of koala-bagging (although when we do it, it's a lot less rough!).

Watch Borat bag Pamela!
Provided by Flixster

Actually, when we bag koalas in the hospital, it's usually for their comfort. Sometimes it's easier to feed a newcomer koala by securing the mouth of the bag around their face, or it the bag can be used to shield the koala from something unpleasant like an injection.

Reading the daybook, I see that Jupiter Cheryl and Kennedy Easy have both been released!

Just as I walk out the door towards my car, I hear a voice demanding if I work at the hospital. I turn to see a chap walking towards me with some urgency, carrying a plastic garbage bag before him. He tells me, "I've got a sick animal, but I'm not sure what it is". I usher him quickly into the hospital, calling Cheyne and Andrea to assist. It turns out to be a ringtail possum wrapped in a towel. Cheyne gently examines it while Amanda quickly mixes up some rehydrating liquid to feed the little fellow. As Cheyne checks it over, the long tail curls around the little body. Cheyne gently twirls it away, rewraps it in the towel and places it in carboard box. As with koalas, it's better to hide a hurt animal from the light.

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The animal contract

We had a kookaburra visit us on our balcony at home the other week. We got some of our cat's raw mince from the fridge and lined up a few globs of it along the ledge. With us kept at a careful distance, the kookaburra then swooped in and collected the meat with a surgical snap of its beak, pausing to smack the bloody lump on the side of the ledge before swallowing, no doubt to replicate the motion of a kill. This process continued for a time: human leaves glob; bird flies in, eats glob and departs; repeat.

I have mixed feelings about all of this, especially as it relates to koalas: on the one hand, there's humbling delight in having a wild animal let you to engage with it. On the other hand, I feel a creeping sense of angst about encouraging such dependence. They (animals) depend on us, we don't depend on them. In the case of koalas, we're trying to undo or ameliorate the damage we've caused by relentless human expansion into native habitats.

I remember watching the TV series, Animal Contract, based on the book by Desmond Morris (1989). Being a vegetarian at the time, I was enthralled by Morris's controversial argument that vegetarians actually did animals no favours; instead, what ensured animals' survival was the "contract" set up between humans and animals. We need them for food and other necessities which fuels our concern with their long-term cultivation and survival.

This is true of livestock (which are valued for their provision of food and other goods), and dogs and cats and budgies (which are valued as "companion animals"). But what of animals that serve no such utilitarian function, where the animal's function to us is merely an aesthetic one? ie, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that there are meerkats in the world, but they're not required for my existence. This makes them a nice-to-have, not a must-have.

What is the consequence of animals whose survival is not protected under the animal contract? I suppose they become "vulnerable", which is status the koala population has been assigned. And then possibly they become extinct. Sorry to have turned so morosely philosophical all of a sudden; I've been more than a little affected by the recent assertion in the Sydney Morning Herald that koalas could be extinct in as little as seven years. I can't imagine only ever seeing koalas in pictures.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Easy like Sunday morning

Tightening two strings with both hands around the middle of the gunyah, I suddenly fancy I'm lacing a corset...albeit a skinny terry-toweling corset on a long wooden beam that has a koala attached to it. Hmmm, what would Freud say?

Kennedy Easy
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I had written in the daybook that I wouldn't be in today. Then I wound up back in Port after a briefer-than-expected trip to Sydney, so I arrived at the hospital "unannounced", as it were.

I drop off my newspapers and notice a few new names on the mini whiteboards in ICU. One darling girl is Kennedy Easy who was found in a yard with a dog! She's not snuggled into her leaf as most of the other ICU patients are, but peering out into the corridor, and at me as I walk past. She looks quite peaceful. They've only got her in for observation. Right now though, she's observing me.

Pete says I'm to help Cheryle in yard 9. I've met Cheryle a few times before; I used to wonder if she was somehow 'related' to Jupiter Cheryl (eg, was involved in her rescue), but they spell their names differently :)

Cheryle's just coming out of the babies' yard with a bunch of leaf. The babies (Linksy and Kimmy) are frolicking around on the their gunyah, wide-eyed, and looking for fresh leaf. Cheryle has already done most of the recycle in the main yard. It's just a question of feeding and sweeping now.

Bonny Fire is up her tree. There's a little bit of concern as she hasn't been coming down much lately to be fed. She's one of the older girls, so it's important for her to be fed her supplement. Pete also wants to check on the thing they spied between one of her toes last Sunday. Perhaps it wasn't a tick after all, but a funny sort of skin tag.

Lucky is wandering around the edge of the yard, near the corner she seems to favour: near the graves of Perch Miracle and Cloud, two of the hospital's most cherished permanent-resident koalas. Cheryle grabs Lucky's feedpot and heads her way, calling out to her gently so as not to scare her. I head for Birthday Girl's gunyah and try to locate her in the foliage. She's deeply buried under an arched sweep of leaf, so I crouch beneath it to share the sanctuary of her cubby hole. As she looks up at me, her grey face is speckled golden brown from the sun filtering through the leaves. She takes the syringe gently, with none of the urgency of the younger koalas. She knows her meal's a sure thing.

Cheryle carries on with the recycle while I rake the poop on the astroturf. There are one or two runnier patches, which is unusual for koala poo. Cheryle says that Lucky seems to be suffering from a bit of diarrhoea.

With the main yards raked, I set off to sweep out the babies' yard. All I can see is an impossibly white bottom poking through the leafy gunyah.

Ocean Kim and Links VTR (obscured)

Then she sits up and takes notice -- why, it's Ocean Kim!

Ocean Kim and Links VTR (obscured)

It's hard to clean in a yard with the most gorgeous koala specimens so nearby. They're kids and their hungry and they know we generally come bearing food. They're I wander around the gunyah to see what Linksy's up to. He's making a good meal of yesterday's remaining nicholii.

Links VTR
Links VTR
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I wrench myself free of the joeys' grasp (of cuteness) to replenish the numerous water bowls around the main part of the yard. Lucky Wiruna is still on the ground but is making her way over to the gunyah. Surprisingly, Birthday Girl has switched gunyahs -- from her usual one near the joeys, over to the main gunyah configuration that Lucky and Bonny typically share. When I tell Cheryle about it, she's surprised (and impressed!) that Birthday Girl still has the agility to climb. She's an old koala and suffers from arthritis.

Ellenborough Nancy
From koalawrangler's gallery.
We're now waiting for fresh leaf so I wander over to yard 10 where Jim and Emma are. I'm keen to see how Ellenborough Nancy is settling in at her new digs in Links Lorna's old yard. (I also wonder how little Eepy is doing out in the wild). Ocean Therese is sleeping curled up on her gunyah, Tractive Golfer is chewing at yesterday's leaf. Oxley Jo is snuggled up in her leaf as well. Emma is feeding Sandfly Jye and Jim is cleaning Ocean Roy's pots. I ask how the new third pot is going. We installed these (with sticky tape!) last Sunday. Apparently, some have slipped down a little, but generally they are doing their job of providing a extra shelter on these less shady yards. An additional problem which we didn't anticipate during our feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis (ie two minutes' of conversation last Sunday) is the poop factor. We knew that the fixed pots could not be removed for thorough cleaning; they would have to be squirted clean with a hose. We also didn't count on the koalas using the third pot as an ersatz tree trunk and pooping into them. Jim wants to try to obtain some more metal pot brackets and afix them to the gunyah properly.

Ocean Roy
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I look in on Ellenborough Nancy. I'm glad they gave the room upgrade to Nancy. She's a koala who would really appreciate the shift from the aviaries to here. It's wonderful to see her outside in the sun and out of the shadows. She looks different; her eye, to my untrained one, looks completely cured, compared to the weepy left eye she came in with. I glance over to Ocean Roy. He suddenly demonstrates one of those unexpected leaps that koalas are capable of -- about two metres straight off his gunyah to the ground. It takes Jim and me by surprise. Roy's just doing a perimeter check of his yard. I yoo-hoo him at him and he looks up, bleached white by the sun.

The leaf arrives and we quickly replenish the outside yards before starting inside in ICU. I've got Calwalla Bill, the koala who swiped at Helen the other week. I'm not going to be complacent about doing his unit; I'll keep out of his way and hopefully he'll keep out of mine. He's down the left of his gunyah so I replace the towel at the right, leaving a long string dangling at in the middle in preparation for the next towel. I give him some lovely wet leaf down the right end and he ambles down towards it, unfortunately positioning himself right in the centre of the gunyah.

I manage to secure the new towel on the left side now, but can't finish the job with Bill's butt right above my head (where I need to tie the final knot). I concentrate on the rest of his gunyah -- sweeping up newspaper, mopping the floor (darting looks at him all the while) and relaying the paper. I may as well not exist for all the attention I'm getting from Bill -- he's gobbling up his new leaf. Finally, he shuffles in a bit further and I can tie of the loose strings. Tightening two strings with both hands around the middle of the gunyah, I suddenly fancy I'm lacing a corset...albeit a skinny terry-toweling corset on a long wooden beam that has a koala attached to it. Hmmm, what would Freud say?

Peter and Emma are both working on Oxley Nina (a newcomer)'s gunyah. She was brought in after a motor vehicle accident (her nose and chin look a little grazed). It's suspected that she may be harbouring a joey in her pouch. Like many koalas, she's not interested in moving around her gunyah to allow fresh towelling to be laid down -- not even moving in the direction of new leaf. It becomes a team effort -- just as Emma lures Nina northwards up the fork bisecting her gunyah, I wack the towel down which Peter then adroitly ties on.

In the dayroom having the post-shift cuppa, I check out some of the changes afoot since I was last in. I'm saddened to discover that Nulla Sam's swelling was the result of an infected dog bite. Koalas are non-aggressive and non-treatening animals, making them vulnerable to such attacks...and therefore undeservingly so! I also notice that Bellevue Bill's prognosis is now listed as poor -- his kidneys have become affected. Bill is such a sweet boy, and young(ish). I'll keep my fingers crossed for him.

More optimistically, I see that there have been a few releases: Hindman Foxie (who has a joey in her pouch) and Oxley Westi (the one with the protruding eyes). A koala has been admitted and released in the days since I last worked at the hospital. Her name is Dunbogan Tracy (after one of the international vollies here) and she looks like such a cutie! You can also read what Tracy and Chris had to say about her here.

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

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Poo profit

I came across this photo on Jojofet's Flickr site (with orginal caption preserved!). It was taken at the Koala Hospital's open day. I found it quite amusing to see how they'd characterised the poo jar comp as a quirky practise peculiar to we culture-starved Aussies!

Actually the guess-the-number-of-poos jar was quite a money-spinner at the open day. It hardly had any overheads, after all...except (I suspect) Cheyne's time in counting said poos. It's poo-r profit!

Click here to view more of the phtos from the koala hospital open day.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Foxie lady

Jo asks us who we think should be moved into Lorna's old yard from the inside units or the aviaries. It's like trying to decide who should be upgraded from a standard room to a suite.

Ocean Therese
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I couldn't keep my eyes open last night after the action-packed koala hospital open day. Despite hitting the sack at 8.30pm, I still managed to oversleep this morning. I've given Pete a call to let him know I'll be a bit late.

Emma's in yard 3 when I arrive. Things aren't quite back to normal in the dayroom yet. There're umbrellas and display boards stacked near the tables that had been scattered around the hospital forecourt the day before. The koalas are all where they should be -- and that's the main thing! My name's not on the board against a particular yard or unit. John's got the aviaries as usual. Jim's out in the leaf skip; not by it, in it. He's trying to stamp down the overflowing leaf, making heavy footsteps in a circular path around the skip. I shout out, "they're not grapes you know". This is as witty as I get at 8.15am on a Sunday.

Tracy's in yard 9 feeding Birthday Girl. Peter and Chris are contemplating Bonny Fire. I greet Pete with the question, "so what's my punishment?" (for being late). I'm allocated to ICU (no punishment at all). I ask him if it's okay to help Jim out first in yard 10 before starting on ICU together. Chris calls me over to look at Bonny's foot. They reckon she's got a tick between her toes. Pete's gone to find some tweezers. Bonny's not pleased with the close attention we've been paying her and starts to scoot up the pole connecting her gunyah to a nearby tree. Chris shows he's been learning some koala lore by gently pushing on her forehead to keep her in place while we both have a closer look. I reckon it's got to be a tick too.

I grab some of the good orange leaf cutters and head into yard 10. Jim's already raked Golfer's area and made up his recycle pot. I start on Ocean Therese. She's down from her tree and wrapped around a fork on her gunyah. She leans towards me as I enter, nosing the air. I can't feed her or touch her. She's being dehumanised for her impending transfer; although this is a contradiction in terms for Therese who's probably even more human-friendly than Kempsey Carolina (which is saying something). Compared to the other wild koalas we get at the hospital, she's like a living Gonzo or Fozzie Bear, more fuzzy animated creature than animal. They say she might have incurred brain damage from her car accident last year, which might account for her gentle docility.

She climbs down from her gunyah and approaches me. I'm not worried she'll climb me like Sandfly Jye might try to do. It feels like she must want to be near, but, as Cheyne always says, it's more likely that to Therese I'm just a walking purveyor of leaf or formula. So I try not to touch her, which is almost impossible as she's virtually walking into me. Then she sits back on her haunches, not pushy like O'Briens Fiona used to be. She just lets me do what I need to, raking up her poo and clearing one pot of leaf.

A lot of poop and dried leaves appear to have gathered near the edges of her yard. I start to arrange it into a few smaller piles. As I sweep one up into the dustpan, I I catch a glint of aubergine among the poo pellets. Is it a tick? I shake the pan so as to sort through the oval objects better, momentarily feeling like I'm panning for gold -- trying to find that glossy tick among the dull droppings. No luck, it all goes into the poo strainer near the hospital's back entrance.

Ocean Roy
Ocean Roy
From koalawrangler's gallery.

As Jim starts on Ocean Roy, he asks me what happened to Links Lorna. It's nice to be able to say she's been released. Jim confesses he's a little sad; she was a bit of a favourite for him. I know just what he means. You develop feelings of fondness for these animals even if those feelings are never reciprocated. The more you're with them, the more you become aware of their different behaviours and vulnerabilities that we then anthropomorphise into "personalities". Then it's not just any koala that's freed, it's a specific koala that you cherish particular memories of. We wranglers are not veterinary experts; we're people with pets and kids and (usually) non-medical day-jobs. So we're non-scientific about our responses to being around koalas so regularly. I can't work this closely with particular animals for weeks on end without feeling a poignant sense of loss when they're gone. Lorna will always be "Eepy" to me, because of her characteristic you're getting to close warning noise which sounded just like eep.

Jim's finishing Oceanview Terry's yard so I start on Sandfly Jye's. Jye immediately jumps down from his perch and races towards me, something he's becoming known for. I'm more familiar with his antics now so I don't even crouch down. He stands beside me as I rake, until suddenly I feel his claws on my lower leg. Hmmm. Best not stick around and see what happens next. Peter brings in the food for Golfer and Jye. So Jye's probably eager to be fed. I try to feed him while he's on the ground, but he's grabby so it's not working. I leave the unit and wait until he's bored with roaming and regains his high fork. He usually feeds best (in my experience) when he's above you; even on the gunyah beam he tends to grab, which makes feeding a bit hazardous. Up on his perch, he takes the food complacently, poking his pink tongue out rhythmically; it's the same colour as his flared pink nostrils. Jim says Jye also prefers to feed from his left-hand side and he's right. Probably cos most of the wranglers would be right-handed.

Morrish Steven
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.
Jye's more subdued now so I can finish raking his yard. Jim's finished Ocean Roy and Links Lorna's unit is empty since her release, so we've done all we can until the leaf arrives. We head in to ICU. I start Lake Private, Jim is in with Innes Tony, Chris is next door with Anna Bay Miles, Ian's in with Calwalla Bill and Emma is trying to fend off Morrish Steven, in vain. Steven is known for being "grabby". He's not striking out, he just likes to reach out for you when you're near. Not sure what he wants exactly; it's probably just his way of expressing that he'd like some fresh leaf, please! Today he's even scampering around the ground and, according to Emma, biting at her knees.

Luckily Lake Private is quite placid. He's a wet-bottom so he gets a new towel, but the hardest thing is persuading him to move down to the fresh-towel end of the gunyah. He does so lingeringly and in reverse. When the leaf arrives I see that Chris has brought in Melaleuca and there's a bundle with a flourishing bunch of blossoms. I mention this to Chris, knowing how much Anna Bay Miles likes them. Miles is doing much better now; I recall Robyn saying that they didn't think he would make it. Perhaps it's the melaleuca! I wonder if Anna Bay Sooty loves it as well?

I see Barb in the treatment room and ask her how things turned out with Nulla Sam, the one found curled up on the ground. When I saw him yesterday, he was lying, unmoving, in his basket. His eyes were flickering open and closed; he really looked like he wouldn't last the night. Sam's lymph glands were also dramatically swollen. Barb had called the vet in who elected to put him to sleep. I'm pleased to hear that they were able to end his pain.

Next I start on Hindman Foxie. I want to do her unit all in one go since she is carrying a joey and is highly stressed. With the leaf here, I hope to restock her leaf to distract her while I finish cleaning the rest of her unit. Her towel is very clean so I check with Peter whether it's worth changing it. Changing is the more distressing part of the cleaning process since the animal has to be encouraged to move at some point, although we work around the animal as much as possible. Peter looks at the whiteboard and decrees that since she's not a wet-bottom, it's okay to leave it. Perhaps avoiding the stress of a towel change will offset whatever benefit is gained by a clean towel?

Foxie still keeps me in sight the whole time, as much as she can with one blind eye. I've noticed this to be a particular trait of koalas with vision in only one eye: Links Lorna and Ellenborough Nancy. Being partially blind must make them even more sensitive to potential danger.

I try to give her flourishing bunches she can hide in. When she moves down the leafy end, I can see her bulging pouch in all its glory. It's uplifting to see evidence of the koala population replenishing itself, despite everything that is working to deplete it (in particular, chlamydia and urbanisation).

Back in yard 10, Jye is sitting in one corner of his yard in an almost meditative pose. Jo is talking to Peter next door in Links Lorna's old yard. She pops in and expertly lifts him back onto his gunyah, where he returns to his slumber and doesn't move for the rest of the afternoon. Jo asks us who we think should be moved into Lorna's old yard from the inside units or the aviaries. Yard 10 is furthest from the treatment room so it can't be a koala who still needs close monitoring such as Bellevue Bill or Innes Tony. Condon Geoff is soon to be released so he may as well stay in the aviaries. Morrish Steven is too naughty (see above), and beside, he hasn't been here that long. It's like trying to decide who should be upgraded from a standard room to a suite.

Another contender is Ellenborough Nancy. I think she's the perfect choice. As one of the wildest koalas, it would be wonderful to graduate her to a yard that is fully outside. The umbrella will have to go though, in case she tries to use it to escape. This gets Jim and I to thinking. The koalas with only two leaf pots and no umbrella need a third recycle pot simply to provide more shelter for them. It's important to a koala's koalaness to have a spray of leafy branches to nest under. Jye and Oxley Jo both have a third pot with towering branches, but Oceanview Terry, Ocean Roy and Lorna's vacant yard (sans umbrella) do not.

Jim, Peter & Oceanview Terry
Oceanview Terry wonders what Jim and Peter are up to down there
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Jim dons his Bob the Builder cap and retrieves some wide blue tape from his car. Peter tracks down some wire and some new leaf pots. I source the red tape that demarcates the recycle pots. Jim sets about tightening the existing wire on the gunyahs. Lookout Harry takes umbrage at this and gives Jim a swipe; fortunately, he's not hurt. Terry and Roy get new pots taped in place. There are no metal pot brackets so this will have to do. It means that the pots can't be taken down for a proper scrubbing, but they're designed for sheltering-leaf not eating-leaf.

Pete I grab some leftover leaf from the leaf shed and start to fashion new shelters for Terry and Roy. Terry actually treats his new bunch like it's a tree trunk and wraps himself around it, pinned in at the back with a tree fork. It really doesn't look comfortable, but there's still the higher fork climb up to if he wishes.

After my shift, D____'s parents come in to the hospital and I give them a guided tour around the yards. Ocean Kim delights us by clambering down from her leafy perch and tucking into the leaf there. Before we leave, D____'s folks adopt a koala, little Links VTR.

On my way home, I drive down Koala Street and past O'Briens Road. It gives me pause, as I remember funny little O'Briens Fiona, now fattening up in the heavenly treetops.

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

Friday, 6 April 2007

FiFi Houdini's final escape

Barb pops her head in the yard and tells me not to start on Links Lorna's yard. Today's the day she's being released. You go, girl!
Links Lorna
Links Lorna
From koalawrangler's gallery.
It's good to be back in the koala saddle again, after missing my usual Thursday shift yesterday. Being Good Friday, we're down a few vollies; plus there's a few rescues and releases to take away the human resources from the usual servicing of the yard. Barb reckons it's shaping up to be one of those fridays. The kind where you plan to finish at 10, and then you're there admitting new koalas until lunchtime.

Judy is telling Mary about the latest on Walcha Barbie. She's developed a problem ingesting her leaf. She's hungry but not able to keep the food down. They're going to start pulverising her leaf so that she can eat. Judy's talking about Barbie like she's right here in the room. It's then I realise that she is -- she's basketed on the dayroom table, quiet as a mouse.

Oxley Jo
Oxley Jo
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I'm in yard 10 today with Ashley, although he's likely to be called away on a rescue. First off, I feed Tractive Golfer, who's on his gunyah and snuggled into yesterday's leaf. Jo starts making her rounds in yard 10, checking on the koalas' progress. I ask her about little Oxley Jo, the princess of yard 10, since it looks to me like her wet bottom has 'dried up' a little. Jo says she's spent a little longer on the trials than usual. She wasn't responding initially, but has just turned a corner, delivering a negative result for Chlamydia on the test they do. Jo attempted to explain the test to me, which would give CSI a run for its money. Something to do with gel and chain reactions. I cross my fingers for her that her treatment continues to be a success; she's such a darling.

Jo also tells me something that hadn't occurred to me: the koala admissions quieten down in the winter months. It's out of mating season so they're not taking the same risks roaming from place to place.

Tractive Golfer
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I start to sort out Tractive Golfer's leaf and then Ocean Therese. Golfer makes it easy for me, climbing up a nearby tree leaving his pots free to change. Therese reaches out to me in case I have formula. She's still slated for relocation to a wildlife sanctuary, but apparently the transfer requires both Department of Agriculture and NSW Parks & Wildlife approval. Suits me fine; I'll be sad to see her go. She's such a gentle girl. I give her head a little stroke before I go. Barb pops her head in the yard and tells me not to start on Links Lorna's yard. Today's the day she's being released. You go, girl!

Speaking of removals, I see that Warrego Martin is gone from his usual yard. I knew he was in the post-treatment monitoring phase, but it's still a surprise to see he's been released. Like I expect a phone call advising he's to be released today: did I want to come in to the hospital and see him off? Perhaps a cake and streamers? :) Warrego Martin was one of the koalas I first encountered in ICU. He's come through his system of treatment and is well enough to re-enter the koala community as a healthy male. You can see his photostream here.

I've taken some of yesterday's leftover leaf from outside the leaf shed to use as shelter for Oxley Jo's and Sandfly Jye's recycle pots. There's some good sweeping nicholii to give them some added shade. Some visitors are snapping away at Oxley Jo, but she turns my way when I enter her yard. The new leaf is here already, even before I've made a good go at the yards in yard 10. I quickly replenish Jo's leaf and in the process knock Sandfly Jye's feed pot off the leaf rack. I make up another pot in the dayroom.

Lookout Harry
Lookout Harry
From koalawrangler's gallery.
Ashley's back from the rescue and goes in to feed Jye. He then makes a good dent in the rest yard 10. Lookout Harry makes off up his tree as Ashley cleans. I notice that Harry still has a small leaf branch attached to his bottom; it looks like he's sprouted roots. Ashley whips through three or four of the yards, stripping out one pot of old leaf in each until he's called away for another rescue. The rescue from this morning was Orr Palmerston, a former patient, who needs to be re-released since he's okay.

Barb comes in with a bag and asks if I want to give bagging a go. It's been a while and I should keep up the practise. It's time to go...Linksy Lorna! Lorna is sitting peaceably on her gunyah; she's become much less of a stress-monkey. I remember when she was first in ICU and she would utter an eep! when anyone came near her. Barb tells me to pop the bag over her head and she starts eep again, but not in alarm; it sounds more like indignation. With Barb's help, she's in the bag and halfway to freedom. Yeah!

Oceanview Terry
Oceanview Terry
From koalawrangler's gallery.
I carry on with the other yards. It's good to see Oceanview Terry out here. He was in the aviaries for quite a while; it's always great to see koalas graduate to that next level of freedom, a step closer to recovery and release. As they all do, he's perched as high as he can get on his gunyah, overseeing the yard. When I replenish his leaf, he doesn't even move position, preferring instead to stretch lazily towards whatever leaf he can get from his forked tower.

Judy comes in to see if I need any help. Following Ashley's system, I've been replacing the leaf but not sweeping the yards, leaving that till last. Judy graciously assents to being the poop-sweeper for Jo, Harry and Jye. She then gives Links Lorna's old unit a good clean, blasting the gunyah clean with water.

There's still a unit to do in ICU. Chris, Tracy and I chip in, then I go and fold some towels in the yard. Back in the dayroom, I flick through the dayroom to see when Warrego Martin was released. There's been a lot of movement with admissions and releases. Cathie Sampson, the older koala I've been tending to quite a bit lately, was put to rest. His prognosis was not positive, so I'm glad he's out of any discomfort now.

O'briens Fiona
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.
I'd seen earlier that O'Briens Fiona was no longer in the aviaries, which made me think that the cheeky FiFi Houdini must have been released. Sadly though, it turns out that she had put to sleep. She was an aged koala and had already demonstrated her difficulty surviving in the wild after release, judging by her weight loss upon her readmission. She had been sitting low in her tree and was underweight.

How I will miss her! She had such a vivid personality and a frisky way about her. She would bound up to us wranglers, eagerly demanding formula and foisting herself upon anyone who was a potential feeder. Yet this endearing facility was actually debilitating to her; her inexplicable hyperactivity was not merely unkoala-like, I'm guessing that it also contributed to her weight loss. Koalas are docile and sleep 20 hours a day for a reason. She was expending more energy than she could take in. I couldn't help but shed a tear when I read the news, but I'm glad that Fiona has made her final escape to that elusive gumtree in the sky where she's relaxed and feasting on leaf and formula!

Hindman Foxie
Hindman Foxie
From koalawrangler's gallery.
There's another new koala from the Newcastle area, Anna Bay Sooty. She has notes on her, warning us handlers to give her a wide berth as she is particularly nervous and wary of human attention. She also has a pinkie in her pouch. A baby on that way. It makes things seem hopeful for the koalas.

Carol's in the treatment room feeding today's newcomer, Hindman Foxie. She was last in the hospital some six or seven years ago. Her left eye is completely clouded over; I'm not sure if this is permanent or curable. She's also got a joey in her pouch! Foxie's taking in the liquid Carol's feeding her. She's now in good hands.

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