Thursday, 21 February 2008

Get out the rusks, the play pen and the bassinet... the joey yard is full again!

Settlers Inn Casey (L), William Krystal (C) & One Mile Beach Noah (R)
Settlers Inn Casey (L), William Krystal (C) & One Mile Beach Noah (R)
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Up until August 2007, the hospital had been aflush with joeys; there were always one or two little orphans being left to grow and build up their "koala skills" in the safe environment of yard 6, pending release. Lady Nelson Woody, Belah Irwin and Oxley Lucky were residents in the joey yard when I started back in January 2007, soon to be joined by the delightfully frisky Links VTR and Ocean Kim and, later, the more demure joeys, Lake Christmas and Siren Gem.

But since Christmas and Kimmy were released in August last year, there had been a dearth of joeys at the hospital, leaving we poor vollies without a single joey to gawp at. Visitors and volunteers alike always like to see the babies, but it seemed that the joeys had "dried up" for a few months.

Then October came (the busiest month for admissions to the hospital). One joey arrived, then another, then two more! Lo and behold, the nursery yard was full again!

Settlers Inn Casey (more pics here)
The first joey to grace us was Casey, who was reported to the hospital by patrons of the Settlers Inn Tavern in October 2007. They had observed Casey in a palm tree near the beer garden and thought she looked a bit young to be out on her own. At only 2.4kg, Casey had probably been orphaned or just recently abandoned by her mother. Casey was found to be in great physical shape and so seemed to be managing well enough on her own...for now. She was near a busy road with quite a bit of unkoala-friendly construction going on nearby.

Generally, when a joey is about 12-18 months of age, the mother leaves the juvenile to make their own way in the world, but typically keeps a watchful eye from a nearby tree to see that the youngster is doing okay. We decided she would be better off placed in the joey yard where we could keep an eye on her progress. After a week or so she was found to be infested with ticks, which can cause anaemia if not attended to. Casey was then regularly checked for ticks and returned to her tree...this time with a squirt of the tick repellent usually used on dogs.

Oxley Holly (more pics here)
Casey was on her own for a few months when, in early January 2007, she was joined by Oxley Holly. We had received the startling report that a koala was walking along the busy Oxley Highway near the local high school with a joey riding on her back! Even more surprisingly, the koala was Oxley Westi, a koala who had come 11 months earlier with abnormally protruding eyes. At the time, it was suspected that she might also be carrying a pinkie - an unfurred joey. Westi's appearance now with joey in tow, proved this to have been the case. Oxley Holly was a healthy female joey weighing in at 2.25kg. Unfortunately, Westi was now completely blind and had to be euthanased. So Holly joined Casey in yard 6, like her, to grow in a safe environment before she can be released.

William Krystal (more pics here)
Less than two weeks later, another joey was admitted in rather interesting circumstances. A gentleman was leaving the pub one Saturday evening when he noticed, to his surprise, a small koala waiting at the lights on William Street in downtown Port Macquarie. The lights changed and apparently this young koala set off across the road. The gentlemen gathered up the joey and proceeded to cuddle her for the next two hours (don't try this at home!) before contacting the hospital. Krystal was likewise in fine condition, weighing 2.67kg, and joined the other two girls in yard 6.

One Mile Beach Noah (more pics here)
Finally the three girls were joined by a 2.7kg male joey transferred to us from our friends at the Native Animal Trust Fund in Newcastle. Noah's mother was hit by a car on Gan Gan Road in the precinct of Anna Bay, while Noah himself was rescued unharmed from nearby One Mile Beach. Although Noah had been well cared for in homecare, the NATF did not have the facilities to care for a growing joey. Like the rest of our brood, Noah just needs to finish his weigh gain, get climbing practice, and dehumanise prior to release.

Like any growing children, the joeys are currently eating the hospital out of house and home! Casey and Holly were initially sharing one bundle of leaf which is usually sufficient for one adult koala. When the other two joeys arrived, this was doubled to two bundles. In the mornings, the leaf pots would be stripped of their leaf, the tops mown down down by hungry joey jaws overnight. Recently, a small gunyah extension was erected in yard 6 to facilite the placement of extra leaf-pots to satisfy the appetites of these growing youngsters.

But who's who in the zoo? (which joey is which?)
The joeys are surprisingly easy to tell apart when you know what to look for. Noah has a soft sleepy look about him and his ears are less round and perky. But telling Noah from the three girls is easier than comparing ear shapes - the girls each have a green tag in their right ear, whereas Noah has no tag (he will be tagged in his left ear before release). If you get close enough you an also see that Noah has little furry testicles emerging.

Where the girls are concerned, it's a question of noses. Casey's nose is broader at the top than the base, while Holly has just the opposite - a broad base and narrower top. William Krystal's nose is narrower than both the the other girls and maintains a generally uniform width at top and bottom. Krystal also has pale grey fur, lighter than the other joeys. You can see what I mean in the pics below:

Oxley Holly
Nose bottom-heavy
Oxley Holly
From koalawrangler's gallery.


William Krystal
Nose uniformly narrow
William Krystal
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Aw, joeys...bless them!