Saturday, 8 December 2007

Romance at Roto House

Roto Randy (r) in hot pursuit of Roto Abigail (l) with baby joey on her back!
Roto Randy has Abigail & joey out on a limb!
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Apologies koala fans, for my recent blog absence. Given my unknown whereabouts, you'd be forgiven for thinking I might have been out in the back of beyond cavorting with Aussie Mick...

There's a little story I've been meaning to share for a while now, one that's very close to home. The koala hospital exists alongside the restored Victorian homestead Roto House, on the grounds of the Macquarie Nature Reserve, a lovely clutch of natural bushland that is also home to a couple of wild koalas.

One such fellow is Roto Randy whom readers may recall from his frequent endeavours to visit our female patients in the outside yards. Recently, Randy was found in yard 9 and is presumed to have had his wicked way with Bonny Fire. Bonny already got pregnant from an unexpected koala visitor some years ago.

It is mating season, after all, and a koala's gotta do what a koala's gotta do.

Readers may also recall another koala we've been watching with interest: Roto Abigail, a female koala originally with a pinkie (unfurred joey) but whose joey has grown to a good size and now rides about on its mother's back like a caboose. It's always a pleasure to see them out in the grounds. It's not such a pleasure seeing Randy in hot pursuit, which is exactly how we found them recently.

The action takes place behind the koala hospital shop. Abigail and joey are up a lush tall gum tree minding their own business when someone spots Roto Randy climbing up the tree after her... Abigail, who already has her hands full with one youngster, is probably not too interested in getting up the duff with another just yet. Roto Randy has other plans. As Randy makes his way up the main trunk, Abigail moves higher up the tree to get away from him.

As Randy moves closer, Abigail retreat along a branch. Now Randy has her cornered. There's really no way out for her now. All she can do is back further along her branch.

By now, the cavorting koalas have gathered a crowd keenly watching the action. Randy is getting closer and closer to Abigail and she is manoeuvring around the spindly branches trying to keep her joey on-board while keeping Randy at bay.

At one point, it looks like the joey is going to tumble off and crowd utters a joint "oooh!". Joeys are occasionally orphaned this way -- they can be thrown off or separated from their mothers during mating and don't find their way back. Chris, one of the leaf collectors and rescuers comments that a resident once reported finding a joey asleep in her laundry. The mother left the joey on the washing machine during mating and returned for it afterwards.

Randy is just in grabbing distance of Abigail and suddenly the joey comes off! Poor Abigail! She's looking out for junior while deflecting advances from Randy.

It's then that we decide something needs to be done. It's not the first time Randy's been given the heave-ho to allow Abigail some breathing room. You can see film footage of this daring capture below.

Chris reverses the rescue truck under the tree and climbs aboard the upper cage. He wields a very long rescue pole with a cloth or two dangling from the end. The pole itself doesn't need to touch the koala -- it's the dangling cloths and the end that cause the koala to take flight and descend the tree.

It's never an exact science and Randy starts to descend at first, but then makes a bolt upwards again. Peter grabs a second pole and manoeuvres it from the ground to give Randy less opportunities to ascend.

Emma is waiting at the bottom of the tree with a bag. She manages to grab Randy's legs, at which point I ditch the camera and tear over to thrown a bag over his head. There are three of us at the bottom but we finally get him in the bag.

Our hearts are racing as we carry Randy in a bag to the far end of Macquarie Nature Reserve. An American lady accompanies us and asks what it was that Randy wanted with Abigail. I'd forgotten that "Randy" is a self-evident name amongst Australians/Brits, but it's connotations of, well, amorousness, did not make it across the Atlantic. Well, Randy certainly didn't want to take a Abigail to dinner and a movie...not without a babysitter anyway.

Poor old Randy. He found himself let out of the bag under a completely different tree and nowhere near that cute female koala he was after. Oh well, he's always got night-time to look forward to. And what he and Abigail get up to then, well, we'll never know.