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.