Thursday, 10 May 2007

Leaf buffet

I realise I'm staring at Oxley Jo too long because she starts to eep at me weakly which, roughly translated, means "rack off" in Koala.
I've doffed my teamleader training cap today. I pretty much understand what's required from a process point of view (although I reckon I'd have to get in at 4am to give myself enough time to decipher the leaf before the morning shift starts). I know how to check the boards and make up formula. What I lack is experience at the koalaface, the bagging and picking up of said koalas. It'd be really handy for me to go on a rescue to get the no-dress-rehearsal experience of trying to nab a koala for admission to the hospital.

Fortunately (for the koalas, but not for my nabbing skills), there are fewer koalas on the ground getting themselves into strife. Mating season has ended (although tell that to the horny lads in ICU) and we're into the cooler months, meaning koalas spend even more time doing essential koala activities like sleeping, eating, weeing, pooping and more sleeping. Presumably, after the frisky summer months, there are many pinkies and joeys being incubated in their mums' pouches, ready to make their appearances in the spring.

Cheyne reports to Amanda that Walcha Barbie has taken a turn for the worse in the last 24 hours. I take a peek at her unit and she's asleep in her basket on the floor, not on her gunyah. Cheyne asks Amanda to pulverise some leaf, presumably to mix in with her formula, to ensure she's getting enough nutrients. She was doing so well these last few weeks, despite her injured arm. I think Cheyne even took her home with her last weekend to ensure she had round-the-clock care.

My name is on the board for yard 10 so I grab Tractive Golfer's food pot and leave the dayroom. Amanda is breaking off nicholii leaves and depositing them into a dish. "Making a salad?", I enquire wittily. "Yep, hold the feta and olives", retorts Amanda.

The first thing I notice about yard 10 is that Ocean Therese is missing! She was slated for transfer to the Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary's koala refuge and it's finally happened. Her absent yard is a sorry sight indeed; you could always count on Therese to lunge her furry little face towards you in a (seemingly) welcoming way. She would beseechingly lean into you when on the lookout for food; but, upon realising it wouldn't be forthcoming, would curl up and return to sleep. She'd really developed her climbing skills since being in yard 10a, something she had to improve before she could be shipped out to her new home.

Only Tractive Golfer, Oxley Jo, Lookout Harry and the new transfers from ICU -- Morrish Steven and Innes Tony -- remain in yard 10. Golfer's down on his gunyah snoozing, but takes some interest in the profferred syringe. Unlike Therese, Golfer acts like he can take it or leave it, like the whole feeding process is something superfluous that we handlers do for our own amusement. He's a leaf man through and through, as will soon be made apparent.

Vanessa joins me in yard 10 and we talk about the reduction of numbers. She's sad to have missed Sandfly Jye. He became quite a favourite with the vollies for his insistent scampering behaviour.

The Wednesday maintenance crew have worked their magic -- there are now individual hoses in each smaller yard: no more traipsing down with the interminably long hose and the mad dash back to turn it off in between leaf sprays.

Vanessa starts on Lookout Harry's yard while I head down to visit Morrish Steven. He's fast asleep and begrungingly flickers awake as I potter around his yard. I've decided that he's quite the yawner. When a koala yawns you realise how infrequently you see the inside of their mouths. They're usually closed or barely open while the back teeth pulverise their leaf. The only other time they open their mouths is when they're eeping in annoyance or discomfort. You can almost hear the sound I'm talking about, it's rendered so palpably in Birthday Girl's expression in the shot below. Obviously O'Briens Fiona had gotten too close to Birthday Girl for her liking:

O'Briens Fiona & Birthday Girl
O'Briens Fiona tees off Birthday Girl
From koalawrangler's gallery.

So yawning is a rare opportunity to see how gummy their mouths are. Steven looks almost human when he does it; and right now he's got an audience of tourists snapping away at him. Rightly so; he's a handsome marsupial. He's less "grabby" out here in the yard, but he shares Therese's penchant for head lunging. He's curious and wants to know why you're in here and what's in it for him.

I collect some of yesterday's recycle leaf from outside the leaf shed and make up a new recycle pot for Steven. He rushes towards me on his gunyah as I bring the bouquet in. He treats it like fresh leaf and tucks straight in. He seems to stop and stare at me at one point, even pausing his leaf-munching to look intently. Either that or his eyes are simply glazed over with leaf pleasure and I have ceased to exist.

Vanessa has made quick work of Harry's and Tony's yards. Tony has adopted Sandfly Jye's former high perch. He doesn't seem to sleep much; he's always on lookout. You can tell he doesn't move much from there because all the leaf tips within easy nibbling distance of the perch have been chewed down to the stalks. I would wager there's a concentration of poo right under that tree fork and nowhere else.

Vanessa finishes Tractive Golfer's area and I start on Oxley Jo's. I have to remove her recycle pot which leaves her looking like a bump on a log. She's straddling her forked branch with both paws like a stilt-walker. The pads on lower paws clutch the branch, looking almost froglike. I realise I'm staring at her too long because she starts to eep at me weakly which, roughly translated, means "rack off" in koala (see Birthday Girl, above). I quickly create a towering recycle pot to return Jo to her leafy privacy.

There's some recycle leaf left on the rack down near Morrish Steven's yard. Suddenly Tractive Golfer appears out of the nowhere and starts nibbling at the overhanging leaf. Despite his scoliosis, he manages to shimmy up the wooden leg and onto the leaf rack and settles in for a buffet of leftovers.

Tractive Golfer
Tractive Golfer
From koalawrangler's gallery.

The new leaf is ready and we start the production line of replenishing the yards. To complicate matters, Tractive Golfer decides he's more interested in our fresh leaf and we have to completely remove all the leaf from the rack and beckon Golfer towards his own gunyah so that he'll let us prepare the others' leaf.

Tractive Golfer
Tractive Golfer
From koalawrangler's gallery.

There're always lorikeets fluttering around this tree in yard 10. Today they're especially noisy. I realise that the protruding knot in the tree above the leaf racks had filled with water and the birds were using it as a bath. One disappears into it, emerge with drenched feathers, shake itself and preen. Then another shows up and does the same thing. Then one squawks and they squabble with each other. I reckon one of them must have jumped the queue.

Bathing lorikeets
Bathing lorikeets
From koalawrangler's gallery.

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