Friday, 10 August 2007

Furry golfers find their way home

I mentioned in a previous post that we have been awash with Ocean koalas (geddit?), that is koalas admitted who were found near Ocean Drive, the highway that connects Port Macquarie and Bonny Hills, Lake Cathie and beyond. It zips along at 80km/h, not a very koala-friendly speed, hence the relatively many koalas we get at the hospital who receive the "Ocean" moniker. In the last week or so, we've had Ocean Woody, Ocean Joseph, Ocean Jane and Ocean Golfer in through our doors. Ocean Joseph and Ocean Woody have since been released...not to the highway, of course, but to a nearby safe zone. Hospital staff usually divine a good spot that's not far from where the koala was found, but far enough from trouble, where there's plenty of good koala food and company (for when mating season rolls around again).

Ocean Jane
Ocean Jane
From koalawrangler's gallery.

There's lots of good release/transfer news today. There were several koalas in ICU that have all been released or transferred to the outside yards. Hamlyn Jack is in yard 1, Ocean Jane is in yard 2 and Jonas Absalom Blinky (phew!) is in yard 3. Livingstone Clover continues to be a little ornery in yard 4 and it's the usual crowd in the joey yard and yard 9. Wiruna Lucky has been bumped back into yard 9 to make way for Anna Bay Lilly Billy in yard 9a. Lucky has pretty much "assumed the position", taking up the exact bit of gunyah that always seemed to favour when she was in yard 9 before.

Ocean Joseph
Ocean Joseph
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I forgot to report earlier that Candelo Cool flew the coop (in a good way) a few weeks ago. Anna Bay Sooty and baby Smudge are back in Anna Bay. Sadly, Sandhill Col, was euthanased. I'm not really surprised--he wasn't an old koala but he looked so haggard and debilitated that sending him to that eucalyptus in the sky was a blessing.

I'm in yard 1 and 2 today, looking after their newest occupants, Hamlyn Jack and Ocean Jane. Jack seems much more sedate out here. He'd done a bit of a "Morrish Steven" on his indoor unit, trashing the place like a rockstar, so it's good to see him snoozy and calm.

Ocean Jane, on the other hand, is racing around her yard like she's on wheels. It's a far cry from the timid little lamb I fed the other day after she first came in. Right now, she's returned to the gunyah to scurry back and forth like it's a balancing beam. She hasn't been fed yet, so I finish up with Jack and head in there to feed her.

It needs to be taken slow since she's incurred some damage to her palate and has difficulty swallowing. I basically give the syringe a little squeeze, let her lap that up, and give it another little squeeze. It's very slow, but it's a pace that seems to work for her, as she's interested in food but makes a little choking sound if she swallows too much. She manages about two thirds of the pot before she curls up and settles into sleep.

Meanwhile, Amanda asks me if I'll come with her on a release. In fact, not one release, but two! Jonas Absalom Blinky in yard 3 and Ocean Golfer over in yard 10 are the two lucky chappies. Both are to be released to local golf courses where there are plenty of koala food trees and other koalas.

I ask Paul to finish up Jane's unit and I head off in Amanda's car. There are two covered baskets in the back and, being boys, the gamey scent they're excreting is as concetrated as an essential oil. Poo-ey! No wonder Jane was going a bit feral surrounded by three gamey males (Clover, Jack and Blinky).

Jonas Absalom Blinky
Jonas Absalom Blinky
From koalawrangler's gallery.

I've got the map and we head for the first golf course. There are yards of rolling turf with golfers tugging their bags and chatting amiably among themselves. The helpful chappy in the clubhouse points us towards a little bridge with a shed on the other side of it. There is a cluster of trees there that look like Melaleuca, a leaf that koalas like. We drive down there and pick out a good tree for our first release-ee, Jonas Absalom Blinky.

Blink is about all he does when we first open his basket. He just sits there and looks around, as though trying to process how he's found himself in this vast open green space. There are several good trees for Blinky to choose from and he tries all of them out. He climbs up one, then down again, climbs another, then down and then back to the original one which he rejects again before comically bounding off to a sheltered clutch of trees and takes off up a...fir tree! Wrong! Fir trees are NOT koala food trees, but fortunately there's a nicholii adjacent to it that he can spring to after we leave.

We continue on to the next golf course, home to Ocean Golfer. We follow a golf cart out to the far reaches of the course. The guys there know just the right spot for our koala, a sweet little junction of the 16th, 17th and 18th holes where there's a group of nice-looking tallowwood. Ocean Golfer knows just what to do and scurries up a tree with several finger-like branches. The golfing staff helping us comment on how much better his bottom looks. Golfer's fur is still a telltale orange-brown; it takes time for wet-bottom discoloration to grow out. They tell us that there are a few koalas around here, so that bodes well for Golfer to go forth and bring some more little caddies into the world.

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