Friday, 11 May 2007

Fingers crossed for Oxley Jo

Kimmy, like Lake Christmas, is a treetop-dweller who only honours us with a visit to earth when she's feeling peckish. She's looking her usual fetching fluffy self. Emma notices a tick under her chin and plucks it off. Kimmy grizzles a bit, much like a recalcitrant child having its hair combed.
"Guess who I saw yesterday?", is the first thing I say to Pete when I arrive. I tell him about our excursion to Ellenborough to check on Ellenborough Nancy. I'm pleased when Pete says that her still being in the same tree is a good sign. She must like it there.

Walcha Barbie is back in home care. I'm relieved that she's still with us since she seemed to have gone downhill late last week. There's a new koala in: Candelo Cool. There was a kids' party taking place near where she was rescued and the kids kept saying how "cool" it all was. Robyn says she's a pretty thing (as well as cool), but all I can see is her back and fluffy round ears when I take a peek at her in ICU.

I can see that Emma's already in Linksy's yard. Pete's given me Kempsey's food pot; she's asleep so I natter over the fence to Emma for a bit about koalas, cameras -- the usual! -- and her impending trip to England -- the not so usual. Kempsey awakens and starts poking her nose over towards our voices so I pull up the stool and start feeding. It's always two steps forward, one back with Kempsey, who swallows half of what's in her mouth and then dribbles the rest back out into the feedpot (which I ensure his under her chin for this reason).

Once fed she curls up again, possibly nodding off to sleep on her full belly except that her one eye is open. Perhaps she can sleep with one eye open since it's blind? We'll never know.

Next is the joey yard. Siren Gem, it appears, was released on Friday. Judy had captured him when he was down for his feed -- a common occurrence. It's Lake Christmas, the female joey, whose seldom visible except as a speckled white bottom in the highest branches. There's a note on the whiteboard that she should also be 'captured' for a weigh-in and a tick check, if she ever makes it down during daylight.

While I'm raking, I hear a familiar eeping from the aviary that faces the joey yard. Kim, one of the uni researchers, is just administering some drug treatment. I ask her who the koala is. It's Oxley Jo. My heart sinks at this. I know it's not good. Kim tells me that Jo has developed a secondary infection. She spent a couple of month on the drug trials and finally showed signs of recovery. The koalas on the trial need to show clear blood tests for four weeks before they're considered ready for release. Oxley Jo was only days away from this when her wet bottom started up again. I did notice that the fur around her bottom was damp last week but put it down to the rain. It may be the Chlamydia again or something else; either way, it's not positive that a young koala such as Jo hasn't been able to fight it off. If she's not responding to the drugs, there's little more that can be done, especially if she's in discomfort.

The drug trial has had so many successes; I can think back to the releases of Macquarie Peter, Ellenborough Kelly and Warrego Martin, and, more recently, Sandfly Jye, Ocean Roy, Lookout Harry, Oceanview Terry, Links Lorna and Ellenborough Nancy. Not to mention the 180 degree turnaround of Anna Bay Miles, a koala in the hospital's sole care. It's just unfortunate that we can't save them all. I ask Kim what I can do. "You could feed her some formula and send her healing vibes", she tells me with a hopeful smile. She's in Ellenborough Nancy's old aviary, so I console myself that perhaps Jo will channel some of Nancy's feistiness for herself.

Ocean Kim
Ocean Kim
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Before we start on the fresh leaf, Emma's joey-trained eye notices Ocean Kim down on her gunyah. Kimmy, like Lake Christmas, is a treetop-dweller who only honours us with a visit to earth when she's feeling peckish. She's looking her usual fetching fluffy self. Emma notices a tick under her chin and plucks it off. Kimmy grizzles a bit, much like a recalcitrant child having its hair combed. She doesn't stay miffed for long. She poses for a few pics and then turns round and jumps in an energetic fashion about a distance of about two feet onto the trunk of her tree and heads north.

On the way out, I notice Wiruna Lucky squatting on her gunyah like a kid. She's waiting for Cheryle to bring her some fresh leaf.

Peter comes out with feed pots for Bellevue Bill and Oxley Jo. I know that Bill is a favourite of Emma's so offer her his feedpot. I head in to see little Jo. She's sleeping but wakes when I enter. She looks merely curious, not alarmed. She's getting used to our being around. I don't recall Jo's ever being fed before so I wonder how she'll go. I let a few drops dribble onto her lips to see if she likes the taste, but it's like she doesn't know what to do with it. The formula spills down her arm and settles in pearl-like droplets on her fur.

I give up on the feeding part but need to tend to her fur. Koalas don't like the formula on their fur for long. I hold the damp face washer out towards Jo and she sniffs at it curiously. I move the washer gently around her little mouth and down her arm. She doesn't mind this too much and most of the droplets are cleaned off.

Jim asks if we need any help and I suggest he can start on Anna Bay Sooty's aviary if he likes. I carry on cleaning Jo's unit. She's wedged in her fork so I roll back the towel at the other end and tie on a new one, getting it as close to her as possible. I clean out one leaf pot; she's not touched much of her leaf from yesterday. When I return she's still at the tree-fork end. I need her to move, but don't want to rush her. Emma comes in to help and holds up the overhaning leaf for her to retreat into. I gently tug at the towel beneath her and she grunts a little before moving away. We get the new towel on the other side, before she gets ideas about moving back.

Bellevue Bill's tick
Bellevue Bill's tick
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I follow Emma into Bellevue Bill's unit to get some more string, as I'm a few inches short. Bill's looking lethargic too. I know he's not doing very well either. Another beautiful koala to send good vibes to. Emma finds a miniscule tick on Bill, which she gives to me to process while she finishes Bill's gunyah.

When I return with Jo's second leaf pot, she's chewing on her leaf, which I'm glad to see. At least some food interests her. I roll up her paper -- there's some poop so she's processing the leaf at least. As an occupant of this aviary, she couldn't be more different than Ellenborough Nancy. Nancy was a koala you never wanted to turn your back to. She was unpredictable and a bit crotchetty. She'd often range around her aviary or climb onto the wire mesh. Jo, on the other hand, sits there like a doll staring up at you with her big brown eyes. I relay the paper and deposit the new water and dirt Jim has kindly prepared, and big her adieu. Let's not say goodbye; let's just say au revoir.

In the dayroom, I see that Anna Bay Miles is to be released shortly back to his home range on the central coast. I joke to Robyn that I'm off to Sydney on Friday so could drop Miles off on the way.

I also notice some rather sobering instructions next to Anna Bay Sooty's entry on the whiteboard. Apparently, she had some eye surgery on Friday to remove her third eyelid, which is sometimes necessary when treating conjunctivitis. Because of the anaesthetic, it's possible that Sooty's body may reject the pinkie (unfurred joey) she's carrying. The volunteers are to observe her over the next few days to see whether the pinkie is hanging out of her pouch or even on the ground. There's no point and in trying to push the pinkie back in the pouch; the mother's given up on it so that won't work. Amazingly, the pinkie can be saved with the use of a humidicrib if it's placed in one in good time. There's also a young-joey specialist in town who can be called in for assistance. According to Jim, Sooty was very very quiet, but fortunately everything seems to be intact in the pouch department.

We start talking about Sooty's name. I assumed she was named after the British toy bear, Sooty. They're not sure who I mean. I start telling Emma and Robyn about how he used to wear tartan trousers, but a quick google reveals that Sooty was actually a glove puppet who therefore didn't even wear trousers. (It must have been Rupert Bear's trousers I was putting Sooty in). Wikipedia says that Sooty never spoke so maybe that's her name because she's so quiet. You could say I'm fascinated with koala etymology.

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