Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Tasman Lesley's 360-degree turnaround

When little Tasman Lesley first came to us, I don't think anyone believed that she would pull through. She was hit by a car on Tasman Road, a suburban street that runs from Granite Street through to the ironically named Koala Street.

She was kept on oxygen for a couple of days when she first came in. The first time I saw her was during a visit to the treatment room. An altogether different koala (Bellevue Scrapper) was on the treatment table being checked for wounds after a dog attack. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a basket on the bench near the window. It contained a koala. It's not unusual for there to be a koala in a basket in the treatment room. Sometimes they are placed in baskets following ultrasounds while the anaesthetic wears off; or other time they're awaiting release.

What was strange about this koala was that she was just lying there, uncovered, and seemingly fast asleep...except that, on closer inspection, her eyes were open. Her eyes might have been open, but "no-one was home", as the expression goes.

Tasman Lesley
Tasman Lesley
From koalawrangler's gallery.

This was Tasman Lesley who had been unconscious since her car accident some 24 hours earlier. It was uncertain whether or not she would regain consciousness. When she was handled she became highly agitated and anxious which is suggestive of brain trauma. The prognosis was not good.

Lesley was placed in home care and then a unit in ICU, still in her basket. Leaf was put near the ground where she could reach it. It was actually five to seven days before she became fully conscious. She remained in her basket for some days and would be brought into the treatment room to receive the formula we feed some of the koalas to build up their strength.

Soon, Lesley demonstrated a miraculous recovery. Amazingly, she bounced back from her initial trauma and it became apparent that she had not sustained brain damage after all.

She enjoyed her food and was gaining strength and so was moved to outside yard where she continued her feeds. Because she was only a young adult koala, she was fed with a slender syringe usually reserved for joeys. She received a double dose of formula too, so this, coupled with the smaller syringe, meant feeding her took about half an hour.

She simply loved that formula and demonstrated a curious habit while feeding. Often, drips of the formula would end up on her fur; but, instead of waiting for it to be wiped off with a wet flannel, she would lick at it! It became her signature: when she was waiting for the syringe to be refilled, she would suck off any excess formula from her fur...a bit like, "I'm saving this bit for later!".

Cheyne and I were surfing around YouTube today and happened to come across this video taken by a visitor at the hospital. We recognised the koala to be Tasman Lesley. In the first half of the footage, one of the volunteers from the shop is explaining about Tasman Lesley's background. Then at about the 3:20 mark, a vollie comes and feeds Lesley. You can see her dropping her head and licking at her arm between feeds.

Lesley was eventually placed in yard 9 with the old girls so that she could get used to climbing again. She spent most of her time up a tree then, and seldom came down for feeds. This independence was a good indicator that she was ready to be returned to the wild, which she was. Here she is 'boxed up' and ready to go!

Tasman Lesley
Tasman Lesley on her way to new digs
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Click here to view more photos of Tasman Lesley.

Monday, 10 December 2007

You can't keep a good koala down: Lindfield Holden

Lindfield Holden
Excuse me, waiter, there's a koala in my salad!
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Another sorry fellow with a foot injury who's been through the hospital doors lately is Lindfield Holden. He was hit by car #1 (brand unknown) which stopped and was slammed into car #2, a Holden. Both Lindfield and the Holden lived to tell the tale: the car sandwiched between the koala and the Holden was written off!

There appeared to be no structural problems with his right feet, but he exhibited a great deal of difficulty manoeuvring it. He would hobble along, resting no weight on it. He was placed in the 'nursery' yard, a yard containing a small gunyah quite low to the ground that we usually reserve for joeys. We also placed plastic-covered pillows around it to soften his landing should he fall. He was a bit grumpy when he first went in there, probably due to the pain of his foot. He also looked rather forlorn and and a little overgrown in there, like an adult on the monkey bars in a kids' playground.

Pretty soon however, Holden started to make great strides -- literally. He took to ranging around his confined space and looking longingly at the large tree that furnished his yard.

Lindfield Holden
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Soon, we decided he was ready to be moved to another yard with a 'grown up' gunyah, the usual distance from the ground. Despite his continuing to hobble about, he was much happier there. His pain seemed to lessen and he would welcome his daily supply of fresh leaf:

Although we'll miss his handsome mousey face around here, I'm pleased to report that Lindfield Holden was deemed well enough to be released back to the bush last week.

Lindfield Holden
Lindfield Holden
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Click here to view more of Lindfield Holden.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

You can't keep a good koala down: Josie

We've had a couple of koalas with us recently with quite debilitating foot injuries.

Salamander Bay Josie, a female, was attacked by a dog who managed to pull the skin and muscle away from the bone of her foot (called "degloving"). Josie was in a poor way when she came to us. She was placed in ICU, on the low beam of a gunyah there so that she could easily access her leaf without having to climb.

During the early part of her convalescence, American National Geographic paid us a visit to film a documentary. Josie was one of the koalas who caught their eye. Here she is playing a starring role:

Susan from National Geographic
American National Geographic's Susan with Salamander Bay Josie
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Due to the attack, Josie's heel bone was protruding through the skin so she underwent an operation to have the bone removed. You would think this would be something to slow any self-respecting koala down, but Josie never seemed to want to rest on her laurels. If koalas have on overriding instinct, it is to get as high up a tree as possible. So even with a bound up foot, Josie would climb up to the higher part of her gunyah with amazing agility.

Salamander Bay Josie
Salamander Bay Josie
From koalawrangler's gallery.

The next part of her treatment was to give her real climbing practice in an outside yard. Yard 4 is a one of the 'training' yards: it has its own tree which Josie took immediate advantage of...so much so that we hardly ever saw her down from it.

In the early stages of her climbing rehabilitation the left foot still arched back towards her in an awkward fashion (which you can see in the photo on the left). But she has been continuing her 'tree-climbing' physiotherarpy and this has worked exceptionally well. She has since been observed placing her foot flat on the ground, and...she has managed to escape from her yard, not once, but TWICE!

Early on we thought that Josie might have limited chances in the wild, and might be better off being transferred to a wildlife sanctuary rather than being released to the wild. But considering she has proven to be an expert climber, the hospital and her overseers at the Native Animal Trust Fund in Port Stephens have decided she is doing well enough to return to the bush!

Click here and here to view more of photos of Salamander Bay Josie.

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.