Thursday, 31 May 2007

All quiet on the koala front

It's the promise of joey love that draws me to Kimmy's yard. At that moment, Peter enters yard 9 bearing leaf. He joins me over where Kimmy is holding court. She's crept as far as she can up a low fork in order to lean in towards us Oxley Jo-fashion, like a cocktail olive on a toothpick.
I've been popping into the hospital over the last few days, not to wrangle, but to catch up with different hospital folk. Compared to when I started here back in January, it's a different place. For the first time in my experience, the units in ICU are completely empty! Strolling through the ICU hallway, I see some old names still up on the individual whiteboards; they seem like a catalogue of times gone by -- Innes Tony, Ocean Therese, Kennedy Easy, Morrish Steven, Candelo Cool; and some new names, the quick turnarounds that are quickly diagnosed and (hopefully) released -- Garden Wellie, Hart Jumper, Change Gunyah...oh wait a minute, that's probably not a koala name :)

Actually, the whole of the ICU is having a spring (make that, winter) clean. All the gunyahs (the wooden beams the koalas sit on) have been removed pending replacement. I also hear that the whole place is to have a fresh lick of paint too.

Links VTR was released in earlier in the week, by his own "mum", Barb, the lady who raised him from no more than a stocking-filler to the robust little fellow that delighted everyone who cast their eye on him. Anna Bay Miles has also been returned to his melaleuca-laden home of Anna Bay. Anna Bay Sooty is in an outside yard instead of an aviary. Morrish Steven was released and Candelo Cool has been moved up to join Tractive Golfer in yard 10.

It may seem like the koala hospital is grinding to a halt -- far from it. Winter is the time for catching up with the tasks that simply don't get a look-in during the face-paced, full-house of mating season. There's working on new displays, updating the details of koalas available for adoption, yard maintenance, detailed cleaning, improving our processes, etc.

Ocean Kimmy is still putting on weight (no doubt since she doesn't have to share her tucker with Linksy!). Kempsey, Bonny and Birthday Girl are the same, but Wiruna Lucky has developed the curious habit of storing mulched up leaf in the side of her cheek, giving the impression of a swollen face. Apparently, it's not uncommon in older koalas. If we notice it, we're to massage the leaf down and she should swallow it right away. Funny koala!

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Now it's the Sunday shift; Jim and Paul are in yard 10 today, while Barb and John are doing the smaller outside yards. I'm in yard 9 on my own today. Ocean Kim is a sleeping grey lump in the tree over in yard 9a. She looks like she's a sleep.There's only two koalas left in this main yard: Bonny Fire is up a tree (although I hear that she makes more of an appearance since Lucky's moved over to yard 10; there's obviously some cohabitation issues going on there); and Birthday Girl is uncharacteristically planted down on the main gunyah looking at me with interest. She's usually the permanent fixture on the standalone gunyah nearer to yard 9a, but today she has the main gunyah all to herself. I start feeding her and she submits to the process willingly.

Birthday Girl's a large koala for a female; she's curled in the intersection of the beams with her not inconsiderable furry bottom protruding. Some of her fur is damp in places. She reaches towards me but without much effort or enthusiasm. She's arthritic, plus she's probably learned that breakfast is a sure thing. After the feed, she curls in on herself and goes to sleep.

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl
From koalawrangler's gallery.

It's actually nice doing this yard alone; it's got a different configuration to the other yards so it requires some coordinating that's useful to do things at your own pace. There are six pots of leaf: two for recycle and four for fresh. As I prepare the recycled leaf -- separating the best of yesterday's leaf from the chewed or trampled, to replenish the red-striped recycle pots -- I look towards yard 9a and meet eyes with Ocean Kim. She's awake in her high tree fork and is surveying my actions at the leaf-rack with interest. When she sees me looking at her, she dislodges herself from her forky lokout and picks her way down the tree to the gunyah.

It's the promise of joey love that draws me to Kimmy's yard. At that moment, Peter enters yard 9 bearing leaf. He joins me over where Kimmy is holding court. She's crept as far as she can up a low fork in order to lean in towards us Oxley Jo-fashion, like a cocktail olive on a toothpick.

"Ugly little thing, isn't she?" I joke to Peter. Not. She's insanely cute. She's actually just about the most gorgeous piece of koala fluff you're ever likely to meet. Her ears are huge, round and have long tufts of fur radiating from them, making her resemble something of a mousketeer. Kimmy has a cluster of hairs poking out at odd angles that constitute her eyebrows and endow her with a quizzical expression.

What attests most to her joey purity is how very white her bottom is. It's like a little piece of sheepskin flecked with grey at the edges. We're given front-row seats to said bottom as Kimmy soon loses interest in us, turns tail and returns to her gunyah to see what yesterday's nicholii tastes like.

I return to the leaf-rack and finish off Bonny's and BG's leaf. Bonny's still high in her tree so it looks like she'll miss out on her brekky. I return to my leaf-cutting and finish the main yard before preparing leaf for Kimmy, who tucks in with her usual joey abandon, summoning a small audience of visitors to snap away at her cuteness.

Jupiter Cheryl and Barb
Barb checking Jupiter Cheryl for ticks
From koalawrangler's gallery.

After finishing my yard, I duck in to visit who's recently been readmitted. She was found wandering a significant distance from where she was released. She seemed disoriented and was no doubt exhausted from her travels and from the number of ticks they found on her. She's in for observation and will soon be released again. Barb's found 8 ticks on her today alone.

Anna Bay Sooty is in the yard next door. I haven't seen her in the light before, since she spent her first few weeks with us in one of the aviaries. Jim and I both enter Sooty's yard to chat with Barb about her. Sooty used to be very timid but has come out of her shell somewhat. You can see that she has a slightly protuding tummy where she's carrying a pinkie in her pouch. There was a possibility that her body might reject the pinkie after her recent eye surgery to have her third eyelid removed, following her treatment for conjunctivitis. That risk appears to have passed now fortunately. It would great if she is still in the hospital when her joey makes an appearance!

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