Friday, 22 February 2008

Bonny Hills sweetheart pregnant to koala love rat!

The alleged love rat Dad
Roto Randy
From broken_puzzle's gallery.

First we thought she WAS pregnant, then we thought she wasn't...but, now, thanks to some indisputable evidence caught on camera this week, we're positive that long-time hospital resident Bonny Fire is officially "in the family way", "with pinkie" or "up the pouch"! And the father is no less than that love rat extraordinaire, Roto Randy.

Last week, Bonny Fire was enjoying a manicure and pedicure courtesy of Cheyne, the hospital supervisor, and Jo, a visiting veterinary science researcher from Sydney uni (here to continue her work on how best to treat chlamydia in our koalas). Bonny's nail beds were badly damaged during the bush fires that brought her to us from Bonny Hills in 2001 (which you can see in her photo above); so Bonny comes in for the occasional nail clipping (and a complimentary French polish). Actually, technically her nails were being dremelled (ground down).

So Bonny was on the treatment room table for this routine procedure. She was anaesthetised using gas rather than injectable sedation, which was quite fortuitous since the former is much safer for pregnant koalas. At this point, it was not known that Bonny was pregnant, then suddenly -- surprise, wiggly pouch!

Wiggly pouch action caught on film (courtesy of Jo)!

Bonny's head is off camera to the left and her legs to the right. When a koala is upright, the pouch entrance runs vertically down the body. So in this footage, the pouch entrance is the barely visible "seam" that runs horizontally on the left of the shot. Above this, there is clear "pouch action" going on! Jo and Cheyne didn't look inside because the pouch opening was really tight (with an opening only about the size of a twenty cent piece) and the koala can lose her baby if disturbed.

At this stage, the joey is an unfurred pinkie weighing approximately 35 grams and still attached to its mother's teat. We won't be seeing any sign of it outside the pouch for a good three months. Even then probably it will only be a limb here and there; it will be 6-8 months before the joey fully braves the outside world and takes to riding on Bonny's back. It is likely that Bonny conceived in November 2007 when Roto Randy, the wild male koala who lives in the nature reserve near Roto House, made his unscheduled visit to yard 9 one fine Spring night.

Bonny's last pregnancy at the hospital was also the result of a midnight tryst with a male koala, this time back in December 2004. Crestwood Ryan was a fellow patient who obviously wasn't that sick since he managed to scale a fence in order to whisper sweet nothings to Bonny Fire.

Bonny Ash was the result in 2005. She remains one of the most popular adoptions in the hospital's Adopt a Wild Koala program, although she is probably having young ones of her own out there in the wild by now.

Roto Randy chasing Abigail (with joey on back) IX
From broken_puzzle's gallery.

Roto Randy has been hanging around the hospital grounds since at least October 2007 when he was sighted, stalking the female patients and residents for a bit of nooky. There were a couple of occasions when Randy made full-scale advances towards Roto Abigail, the female koala also living in the hospital grounds, despite her clearly being burdened with a dependent joey. Abigail did all she could to discourage his overtures, and a couple of times hospital staff had to step in to move Randy along (and so prevent Abigail's joey from going splat!). Hitting on a lady with a baby... Roto Randy, you're a class act!

Then, just the other week, Randy was next setting his sights on the elderly Birthday Girl. She came within his reach during her recent bionic-koala climbing spree. Randy was definitely up for it -- trumpeting out his mating call across yard 9.

Roto Randy is truly a koala love rat! He has already demonstrated all the tendencies of a deadbeat dad. Fortunately, koalas aren't very social and don't tend to hang around in family groups. The males and females come together for mating, otherwise they're on their own, unless a mother is caring for a joey.

In truth, of course, Roto Randy is not really behaving badly at all. It was mating season after all, and Randy was simply following his instincts, which naturally result in propagating the species. And we're all for MORE joeys (and hence koalas). It just makes you realise that koalas are not a "how's about dinner and a movie, then maybe later...?" kind of species. Then again, few are.


So there I was, just the other day, waxing lyrical about the recent glut of joeys (well, four) that we've been enjoying at the hospital. I say "enjoying", although it's a highly mixed blessing since at least two of the joeys came to us as a result of the death of their mothers (Noah's mother was hit by a car, and Holly's mother had to be euthanased). The other two were either orphaned or abandoned.

At least with Bonny jnr on the way, there's nothing but positives, since Bonny is alive and well, if a little long in the tooth. I had suggested in a recent post that perhaps Bonny would prefer to enjoy her retirement without another little anklebiter around. But, after surviving a bushfire and one unplanned pregancy, the old girl's got chutzpah, I'll give her that!

As for us at the hospital, our joey cup runneth over!

More photos of Bonny Fire. More photos of Roto Randy.