Friday, 1 June 2007

Too cool for school

Most koalas in my experience drink draughts of the formula, taking time to swallow in between; they even lose interest and chew on their leaf until they're reminded that there's formula in the offing. Not this one. It's like she's skolling a beer, with no time for breathing, swallowing or otherwise.
It's my birthmas today! I've been looking forward to spending the morning with the koalas and my koala friends. Today there's Jarrod, Paul, Tricia, Brooke, and Amanda, of course; Lorraine is doing admin and Cheyne is out of the hospital attending a course. I'm in yard 10, which has only three koalas: the usual Tractive Golfer, the recovering Candelo Cool and ageing Wiruna Lucky, lately moved from yard 9 to the circular yard 10z.

The supervisor is heading up to yard 10 to administer Candelo Cool's medication so I follow her up with Cool's feed-pot. I've not had much to do with her. She was in ICU and then shifted to yard 10, where I haven't wrangled for a few shifts. I expect her to exhibit the reticence that's more usual in recent admissions. We had a feeding refresher course a few weeks back and Cheyne talked about how we should try to minimise syringe biteage--it's not good for the koala to gnaw off the syringe tip. Till now I'd never quite experienced this kind of feeding exuberance. I'm holding the feed pot out before me to stop her from grabbing at me with her claw for a branch-like thing to cling on to. What's more curious is how eager she to suck the syringe dry. She practically eats my arm off, she loves her formula so much. She gulps insistently at the syringe and it's all I can manage to keep her from chewing the syringe in half! Most koalas in my experience drink draughts of the formula, taking time to swallow in between; they even lose interest and chew on their leaf until they're reminded that there's formula in the offing. Not this one. It's like she's skolling a beer, with no time for breathing, swallowing or otherwise. She's one Cool customer, alright.

After the feed, Cool settles down quietly and goes to sleep in the sun. Meanwhile, I'm exhausted, feeling like a fuel pump attendant working double time.

Amanda and Brooke have come into yard 10 to check on Wiruna Lucky's cheek pad. Amanda had noticed the swelling in Lucky's cheek during her rounds this morning and thought it might be more easily budged with a bit of formula lubrication. She calls me over and upon inspection I see that there's certainly a bulge there. It looks like Lucky's got a big gumdrop in her cheek. Amanda asks me to squirt the formula in while she massages the lump towards the front of her mouth. The formula does the trick and we can see the mashed leaf moving to the front of her mouth. She swallows a chunk of it, but a large ball of it drops out and onto the ground. It's a vivid green mulch and looks rather like a pesto. It's a shame she's gone to all the trouble of chewing it down only to waste it.

Tractive Golfer
Tractive Golfer
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Amanda's brought up Golfer's food so I head over to feed him. He and Cool couldn't be more different. He slurps the formula gradually, pausing to swallow between mouthfuls. After the food's gone, he turns tail and heads up his tree to oversee the yard. The leaf is already available for cutting so it's possible to service the yards old-school--ie, complete one yard fully before progressing to the next. It's the ideal koalawrangling situation which was never possible when there were 30 koalas to locate leaf for.

Wiruna Lucky
Wiruna Lucky
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Wiruna Lucky is prowling around her yard. It's funny seeing her up here in such a small space. I'm used to seeing her on the seeming acreage of yard 9. She doesn't seem too bothered, at least she can find her water more easily now. I prepare her leaf and Lucky snuffles around in it in search for the choice bits. She finds the swamp mahogany and focuses solely on nibbling that for a few minutes, chewing the spindly nubs of seed pods instead of the leaf itself.

As I leave the yard with my tools, I see Jackie watering the plants. She's getting over a dreadful cold so it's lucky there's only one koala in ICU today: Livingstone Clover, in with a hind-leg injury.

Back in the dayroom the others are congregating. We've all finished our shifts and it's only 10am. I start washing the feed-pots until Lorraine comes and whispers in my ear that I should sit down. I sense what's coming. Amanda emerges from the office with a candle-covered cake...for me!!! It's chocolate cake with the secret ingredient of one beetroot!

Afterwards, I check out the daybook to see what's been happening during the week. Park Tricia, a koala with a joey, was admitted and then shortly released. Regatta Lanaye was found on a fence with dogs nearby and relocated to a safer place. Hay Billy is another koala that was relocated. Rushcutter Ralph was also brought in, but his wet-bottom was found to be too far advanced for him to survive so he was painlessly euthanased.

Jupiter Cheryl is slated for release today. Amanda is going to drop her off over Lighthouse Beach way on the way home.

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