Thursday, 11 October 2007

A bagful o' Dave

Last week, the hospital yards seemed chockful of koalas and most of the gunyahs bristled with leaf. The volume of koalas tends to coincide with the warmer weather when koalas are on the move seeking out other koalas for mating. This puts them in unwanted path of dogs and cars as they leave their comfortable branches to traverse backyards and urban streets. It's no coincidence that male koala patients have been in the majority lately, as these frisky boys venture out for some summer lovin'.

Remember the marsupial lothario who was pursuing Roto Abigail, the wild koala mum who lives just outside the hospital grounds near Roto House? He's been eyeing up some of our female patients for a while now, so it was decided that Roto Randy, as he's been dubbed, should be relocated to an area with healthy females, not those recovering from motor vehicle accidents, koala flu, and the like. The last thing our girls need is a male grunting and snuffling about the place while they're recuperating.

Cuddly Ocean Jane is missing from her usual spot in yard 2. She's been given the all-clear and released. Limping Livingstone Clover has also made the trip to Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary where he'll hopefully help beef up their koala numbers.

Lighthouse Barry has also re-entered the wild, which is a relief, since we could barely keep him on his gunyah once he was transferred outside. He kept climbing up onto his roof and John, Jim and Pete took turns in propping a pole up for him to ease himself down to the ground.

Perks Chris is still doing his border patrol, trotting in regular steps around his yard. Emma's just finished Chris's yard and is starting on the koala in yard 1. The gate to the adjacent yard is open, which is unusual. She points skyward and I train my eyes up the tree in the next door yard.

Perks Chris & Lighthouse Barry on the prowl
Perks Chris & Lighthouse Barry
From koalawrangler's gallery.

There's a koala unbelievably high up, hugging a thick tree branch and looking for all the world like she's smiling smugly. Emma tells me it's Pacific Highway Vina, which is wonderful! She was so very fragile when she first came in after being hit by a car on the Pacific Highway a few weeks back. When I last saw her in ICU, she could hardly chew and even struggled to take in the liquid formula. Now here she is jumping fences and shimmying up trees -- a sure sign that she's on the mend. The hospital isn't Fort Knox; the outside yards balance the open-air freedom the furry patients crave with a modicum of security measures. Some crafty koalas will inevitably find a way out, but usually only into the next yard, and this doesn't happen very often. Emma replenishes Vina's gunyah with leaf. There'll be a eucalyptus smorgasbord waiting for her should she decide to return to earth.

The outside yards are well in hand so I start on newcomer Cathie Ali in ICU. She's a small female who regards me warily as I enter and start to clean out her unit. She's a clean girl; there's only a small smattering of tiny poo's on the newspaper beneath where she's perched on her gunyah. I start sweeping out the newspaper and sweep up the poo. She's so far down one end of the gunyah that I can easily replace one of her towels. She's a suspected wet bottom, so they're probably waiting on test results to confirm her mode of treatment.

Just then Peter pops his head in to see if I'll join him on a rescue. Two koala sightings have been made within only a few blocks of the hospital. It constantly amazes me how embedded in suburbia our koalas are. The first one is behind a block of flats opposite Flynn's Beach. A shirtless fellow emerges from his apartment to describe how he saw a koala ambling up the driveway with a sore leg. There's a large fence the separates the flats from a clutch of trees. Pete spots the big fellow high in one of these trees and far out of reach of even our longest poles. Unless he voluntarily moves to a more accessible spot, there'll be no getting to him, which is a shame since he obviously needs some medical care.

We head off to the next koala location. On another suburban street, there's a couple of kids waiting as we arrive. They take us to their front yard swimming pool and there, shivering in a Camelia tree is a very wet koala. Chisholm Dave, as he is to be known, has picked a good tree (for us, not for him). It's very low and with the help of a step ladder, Peter manages to wrestle him off the tree. I'm standing by with a bag and help by pulling and pushing branches out from under Dave's claws so that he eventually tumbles into my outstretched canvas sack. At the last minute, he makes a grab for whatever he can get a hold of and manages to drag down the front of my shirt revealing my bra to all and sundry. I'm just glad it wasn't my skin he found purchase in. I'm past caring about modesty, as long as I've bagged my koala.

I've got my hands stretched out before me holding on tight to the neck of bag. I don't want to rest the koala against myself as they've been known to tear through the bag on occasion. So this koala deadweight is giving my bingo wings a workout. I walk quickly to the car and sit in the back with Dave next to me. We're only a a few streets away so in no time Dave's on the treatment table being towelled off by Peter. John and Jim get to work preparing Dave a new unit with fresh leaf. He looks like a new koala when he gets delivered to his room and sets upon the leaf straight away. The camelia bush obviously wasn't providing must in the way of sustenance.

Keith's brought in another koala that made the mistake of running down the middle of Pacific Drive at 11.30pm last night. Fortunately, and amazingly, he wasn't hurt and Keith looked after him overnight before admitting him to the hospital today. He's a frisky little fellow, only a juvenile judging by his size and seems healthy. He has a very white, clean little bottom, but the towel from his basket is stained red, which unfortunately suggests there may be something wrong internally. Cheyne will have her work cut out for her on Monday with all these new admissions.

I return to Cathie Ali and finish off her unit with some fresh wet leaf. I notice that there's something strange going on with her claws on her front right hand. The claws look like they're split or are shedding an external layer. She's very timid and scurries down the other end of her gunyah with John's help and I finish replacing her towels.

I scan the day book to find out about recent activity in the hospital. I'm saddened to see that Oceanview Terry was brought in DOA. He was one of the successful patients from the university chlamydia drug trials from last year.

Little Oxley Cori is a tiny 440g joey who was found miraculously alive sitting under a tree. He's gone straight into home care with one of our special koala foster mums. Comboyne Ken is another koala in home care. He's from an area about an hour inland from us here at Port Macquarie. He was covered in soot from the local bush fires and is suffering a broken wrist and general poor body condition. Speaking of soot, a recent patient Anna Bay Sooty has been sighted near a youth hostel with her baby Smudge. It's not often we find out that our ex-patients are doing well.

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