Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Ocean Joseph and Hamlyn Bev

Well, today had the makings of a regular Thursday, after the yuletide madness of Christmas and Boxing Day.

I got assigned Kempsey Carolina and Ocean Joseph today. Both get a feed so I headed off to visit my friend Kempsey, who quickly drew a crowd as she slurped up her formula.

The leaf was already cut and laid out so I made short shrift of her yard, decking it out with plenty of Swamp Mahogany and Tallowwood.

I've only once before cleaned Ocean Joseph's yard before and he wasn't terribly interested in my feeding him. He's lying lengthwise on the gunyah, taking the pressure off the nasty bottom wounds he incurred in his second car accident in the space of months. Joyce looked after him in home care for a little while before he took up residence in the recently refurbished yard 8 (Perks Chris's former yard).

Ocean Joseph
Ocean Joseph
From koalawrangler's gallery.

He's one of those koalas that doesn't seek out the food pot--unlike Kempsey who licks at the air between mouthfuls. Joseph just lays there placidly while I gently squeeze the syringe between his lips. When he gets a taste of the formula, he decides he quite likes it, but he doesn't offer too much encouragement. He had big brown eyes and a calm expression common to the big males.

Joy, the hospital supervisor on today's shift, pops in to smear cream on his behind -- it can't be comfortable to sit on. His gunyah is covered in towels to soften his seat and to absorb any leakage from the wound.

Joseph nibbles at a bit of the new leaf before deciding it's all too much and decides to settle down for a snooze.

In the joey yard next door, Settlers Inn Casey is awake and having a bit of a scratch. According to the day-room whiteboard, she's been given a squirt of tick repellent of the exactly the same variety we give our dog. Because she seldom comes down, we don't get an opportunity to check her over for ticks, and it's the young koalas that can get anaemic if they get too many on them.

Casey is a wild child. She was an abandoned joey that had been fending for herself fairly well out in the bush, but was brought in to the hospital when she was sighted. We usually like to have joeys' weight up around 3.5kg before they are released, so she's staying with us to grow and fatten up. I remember when she first came in; she was like a child raised by wolves -- so small and cute-looking, yet pulling away and scratching like a banshee. "I'm big and tough, and can take care of myself!", she seemed to be saying.

Right now, she's looking down on me like I'm a small grub of no consequence. Speaking of grubs, just then three or four kookaburras camped out across several trees start howling at once. One has a large lizard in its mouth and the others aren't happy about it. It's so loud we can barely speak over the din. Tricia in yard 9 starts mock-laughing out loud, joining in.

Everyone's finishing up their yards when we get a call from Hazel, who runs the hospital kiosk. There's a suspected wet bottom koala in the tree outside her house. She needs some vollies to come over with rescue poles to get the koala down.

She lives in a leafy, meandering part of Port Macquarie. There are numerous koala crossing signs and all the streets we pass conjure up names of previous koala patients that hail from this area: Nulla Sam, Hamlyn Jack, Chisholm Dave, Cattlebrook John...

There are a host of folk waiting our arrival out in the street. Amanda and I get to work erecting our poles, while Hazel and another chap get the bags at the ready. The koala is a small one with a tag in her right ear, so we know she's a female and a former hospital patient. Amanda and I move in with our poles; it's a bit like we're jointly wielding a pair of giant chopsticks to pluck out a dumpling. Except that we don't ever touch her with the poles; the cloth hanging from them is used to entice her down the tree. She's currently sleeping so we have to wave a cloth in her face to wake her. It's a dream rescue -- she makes her way down the tree with our guidance and straight into the bag.

I hold her in the bag on my lap as we head back to the hospital. She hardly weighs anything at all.

Back at the hospital, Joy herself has gone out on a rescue so Amanda and I do our best to fill in the new koala's admission paperwork. I check her ear -- 967, no wait, 496...I was reading it upside down. D'oh. It's hard to wiggle the tag around on the ear of a live wild animal in a bag. Really it is.

We look her up in the book: it's Hamlyn Bev, an abandoned joey who was admitted to the hospital in May 2006 weighing only 1kg. She was home-cared then transferred to the hospital to grow before she was released in September last year.

I weigh the bag on the scales: 5.7kg, but after subtracting the weight of the bag, that makes her only 4.8kg, not big. Amanda finds a green form and we start completing it with details about her observable symptoms in preparation from Joy to examine her on her return. Amanda mixes up some hydrating liquid and we attempt to feed her. She's also got a few ticks on her that we remove.

Hamlyn Bev
Hamlyn Bev
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Hamlyn Bev
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Just then, Joy gets back with another koala she's rescued, not a previous admission, but with a very advanced wet bottom. We call her Bangalay Millie. She's going off to the vets for an ultrasound this afternoon which will tell us what's what.

Joy has a look at Bev and we all agree that Amanda and I should give up any fantasy we had to become vets. We'd both thought her tongue was a little yellow; Joy said it was quite normal. However, her right eye was slighly cloudy. Joy also notes that she's got a swollen gland under her arm and a very distended belly, the kind you see in malnourished children, which is clearly giving her some discomfort. Her fur condition iss good but her musculature was slack and she felt scrawny to touch. We watch her walk around the treatment room to see how she carries herself. She doesn't appear to have any mobility issues, other than being quite lethargic.

Poor little sausage! She's off to the vet for an ultrasound too. Fingers crossed.

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