Thursday, 21 June 2007

No Clover allowed on Golfer's turf

It's a case of marsupial West Side Story except instead of the Jets and the Sharks, it's the Koalas and...well...the Koalas.
Brrr! It's a chilly old morning here in Koalaville. All the koalawranglers arrived rugged up in long trousers, fleecy tops and scarves. Even Cheyne has forgone her customary shorts for more winter-friendly attire. It's times like these you've got to envy those among us with built-in fur coats.

I see that the koala money boxes are still stacked on the dayroom table so busy myself with scattering them around the yards. On my way through yard 9, Bonny is up her usual tree while Birthday Girl looks at me beseechingly for her tucker. Wiruna Lucky hasn't been playing nicely with the other girls, so they've given her a yard to herself--9a, the former joey lovenest. She's perched up in the tree and illuminated by yellow morning light. She looks enormous in the yard that has been joey territory for so long. Ocean Kim has recently joined Lake Christmas in the traditional joey yard (yard 6).

Wiruna Lucky
Wiruna Lucky
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Amanda is still reading leaf in yard 5. She returns to the dayroom after her rounds and begins allocating yards. Kerstin's up in yard 10 where only Candelo Cool and Tractive Golfer reside; Brooke's in yard 9, Paul's in yards 5 and 6 and I'm in 3 and 4. Jarrod is helping Geoff with some maintenance work in ICU. The walls in ICU have all received a fresh lick of paint. The bright eggshell blue is quite a change after the previously dour grey.

Jackie is tending to her two charges in ICU: Sandhill Col, a koala brought in with Chlamydia in both eyes. When he turns from yesterday's leaf, he peers out at me through eyes that are angry red. He's slated for surgery tomorrow, so we'll see how he fares. Another inmate is Cattlebrook John. I remember his name. He was brought in back in February with symptoms of lethargy. I remember Barb conjecturing at the time that he might have been hit by a car. He spent a few days in ICU and things didn't look too hopeful. Then, miraculously, he seemed to perk up and was released. It's thought that a motor vehicle accident is to blame for his admission this time as well. He appears to be concussed, but he also has an infection which we're waiting on bloods to confirm.

I've got Anna Bay Sooty and Livingstone Clover to look after out in the yards. Neither gets any formula, so it's straight onto poop and leaf detail. I start on Clover who's currently up the tree in yard 4. I attended the hospital's 3pm walk-and-talk on Sunday, so was able to catch up on a little bit of history about Clover from Barb.

Clover was brought in suffering from a gammy knee and after his initial stint in ICU was moved to the circular yard in yard 10. You'd think that and old man like Tractive Golfer who suffers from a few mobility problems himself would be sympathetic to the likes of poor old Clover. But no. Golfer has the run of the place in yard 10 and is generally not too bothered when other koalas are assigned to the smaller yards adjacent to his. He also tends to ignore it when koalas are placed in the circular yard within yard 10. That is, as long as they are FEMALE koalas. Golfer was none too pleased about the presence of Clover. Males koalas can be quite bullish about their home range and like to be king of their little stretch of "jungle".

Golfer even decided he wanted to explain the home-range rules to Clover in person: one morning the handlers found Golfer IN Clover's yard. Despite suffering from rather pronounced spinal curvature (thanks to his scoliosis), Golfer managed to scale the metal fence into Clover's yard and was giving him a bit of a hard time about being the new kid on the block in Golfer's turf. It's a case of marsupial West Side Story except instead of the Jets and the Sharks, it's the Koalas and...well...the Koalas.

The powers that be decided the best for Clover's recuperation would be to get him off Golfer's radar. Despite shipping Clover out, Golfer still broke his way into Clover's old yard this morning. Amanda found him in there wandering about, no doubt ensuring there were no more interlopers.

So Clover's yard's an easy one to clean, with Clover sleeping peacefully on high. Amanda asks me to look after Kempsey too. She's pacing up and down her gunyah wanting her formula, so I duck into the dayroom to get her food. Feeding her draws a crowd of interested visitors. I lure her down the visitor-friendly end with the smell of formula. She laps it up in her methodically dribbly way.

Kempsey Carolina
Kempsey Carolina
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I carry on and prepare her leaf. Kempsey's hungry today. I put her full pots in place and Kempsey weaves in and out of the branches looking for the choicest leaf. She starts backing her way down the gunyah until it looks like she's going to slip of the end. I put my cupped hands gently around her white bottom just as she taks a step too far... She works it out though and changes out of reverse gear. For a blind koala, she's pretty savvy.

Anna Bay Sooty
Anna Bay Sooty
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Kerstin's finished in yard 10 and comes in to see if she can help out. I've cleaned Clover's yard; all the remains is to replenish his fresh leaf which she's happy to do. I continue on with Anna Bay Sooty who's been asleep all morning. I notice a large brown patch on her hind quarters. I wonder if it's a bit of joey poking out of her pouch? I catch Cheyne in the yard and she suggests it could be "her pap coming through". Pap is a type of koala poo that the mother produces for the baby koala to eat, much like colostrum in humans. It contains all the right ingredients for preparing the joey's gut for its impending eucalyptus diet.

We go into Sooty's yard to inspect more closely, but it turns out to be nothing more than a brown patch of fur that I hadn't noticed before. Cheyne says it's characteristic of darker-furred koalas to have such patches. They also tend to have brown claws; they go hand in hand, a bit like brown hair/brown eyes in humans.

Well, it may not have been a sign of the forthcoming joey, but Sooty's pouch has certainly grown hefty in the last few weeks. As I move her leaf pots around and she moves to accommodate them, I can see the hanging roundness of her belly. It's a shame, but we won't get to see Sooty's little one. Sooty's ready to be released in the next week or two, and that's not to be delayed by a certain koalawrangler's desire to see a freshly hatched joey in the flesh.

There are some serious mating-style noises emanating from ICU. The maintenance team are in there tinkering down the sink end of the corridor. Every once in a while Cattlebrook John lets loose with their unique growling sound, a koala-style foghorn.

In the dayroom, I flick through the daybook and see there's been a few comings and goings. Emerald Oz was briefly admitted and then released, having been reported on a fence with barking bull terriers. Hassall Coal was also on a fence, this time in a yard with two Staffordshire terriors. She was relocated to a safer area. There was also Airport Keena, a juvenile found up in the rafters of a freight hanger at the airport who was also relocated.

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