Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Motorists, take note: it's mating season again

I've fallen into being more computerwrangler than koalawrangler lately. Most of my koala-related time has been spent connecting printers in the Hospital office and working with the Hospital Supervisor to update the much awaited second edition of our Koala Rehabilitation Manual. I've also helped publish the latest issue of Gum Tips, the Hospital's newsletter -- available for download here.

So although I've spent more time wrangling printer cables than our furry patients at the koala-face, there's a story I've been meaning to follow up on.

It means jumping on the soap box for a bit to send out a big "shame, Australia, shame" to a number of reckless motorists. You'll understand my ire if I tell you the story of Siren Gem.

Gem came to the Hospital as an orphaned joey back in February 2007. He was very dehydrated so was taken into home care for round-the-clock care by Barb, before being transferred to the joey yard at the hospital to grow big enough for release. After a few false starts (inconsistent weight gain and bullying by an older joey), Gem reached ideal release weight in May 2007 and was returned to the wild. Because he was so photogenic, Gem was made available for adoption in our Adopt A Wild Koala scheme.

Not much more than a year later, a motorist in Port Macquarie stopped their vehicle to allow a koala cross the road safely. The cars behind also slowed to a halt. However, one motorists further down the line, no doubt unware of the cause of the delay, was not prepared to wait -- they overtook and sped past the stationary cars, and, by so doing, hit and killed the koala crossing the road. That koala was Siren Gem.

It is devastating when any healthy koala dies, but it is somehow more distressing when it is a koala that we've nursed to health only to have it killed so senselessly. Sadly, it's not the first time this exact scenario has taken place -- a motorist has overtaken a slowing vehicle on the road in front of them and killed a crossing koala in their haste. It doesn't bear thinking about if it had been someone's child crossing the road...

It's a privilege to live where we do, but it comes with its responsibilities. The increasing migration out of the cities (which I was a part of) places further pressure on the koala in rural areas. More houses means less habitat; less habitat means more dog attacks and car accidents, as koalas' home ranges decrease and they are forced to move about on the ground, not tree to tree. The impact of habitat loss exacerbates the incidence of wet bottom and eye infections as the koala's increasing marginalisation places them under more stress than they have previously ever known.

But none of this excuses motorists' impatience or thoughtlessness. There are look-out-for-wildlife signs everywhere. These are designed to protect the wildlife with whom we share our country, which also means our roads.

So a word to motorists: koala mating season is now upon us (a personal experience of that here), so for the next five months there will be more koalas on the move as they seek out mates. For their sake, and the sake of future joeys, please heed the wildlife warning signs. Prevent wildlife fatalities if you can!

Okay, off the soapbox now, and on with a good-news story!

Spunky Lindfield Holden has visited us twice -- both times as a survivor of motor vehicle accidents (one back in 2007, and again this year), and was re-released after some serious Koala Hospital TLC just a few months ago. You can read all about his recent visit in the current Gum Tips.

Lindfield Holden is available for adoption through the Hospital's Adopt A Wild Koala scheme. You can adopt him online here. Adoptions are a primary source of revenue to enable the Hospital to rehabilitate koalas like Holden.

Monday, 13 October 2008

The noise you never forget

Koala habitat - our backyard
Koala habitat - our backyard
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Just after my partner and I had turned in for the night, a curious sound had us sitting bolt upright in the bed.

"What is it?"
"I don't know!"
"It sounds like..."
"It could be..."
"...a koala!

We jumped out of bed and ran outside. It was a koala mating call, all right. But we realised the noise wasn't coming from directly outside the room (which is how it sounded), but was actually issuing from a cluster of tall gums in the reserve beyond our neighbour's house (between the pine and the pink flowering tree in the above photo). "On a still night", the Qld government site reminds us, "the call can be heard almost a kilometre away".

What sounded at first like one koala quickly became two as the jittery "eeh eeh" of the female joined forces with the alien grunt-snort of the male. (You can hear the sounds I'm talking about on this video - not sure where it was taken.

It should have come as no surprise to a seasoned koalawrangler. The NSW government fact sheet on koalas tells us:

"This usually happens between September and January, when the trees ring with a wide range of mating noises. Koala mating songs range from the pig-like grunts and growls of the males, to the high pitched trembling sounds of the females."
Of course, I'd heard the sound many times at the hospital as males in the close confines of ICU assert their macho prowess (it was often accompanied by trashing their unit); but until we moved to a part of Port Macquarie with that is surrounded by protected habitat, the pleasure of having our sleep disturbed by these night-time rituals was denied us.

So we stood outside in our jammies listening to this grunting and eeh-eeh!-ing gradually decrease. Then we returned to bed. Little did we realise that this was not the last we'd heard of it, however; the trees continued to ring with the male koala song throughout the night...every hour, it seemed!

I wonder what this is what we have to look forward to at our new address? If more joeys are the result of such a cacophony, I'm all for it.

There are many wild koalas available for adoption here including Hospital resident koala Bonny Fire's joey, Bonny Blaze.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Bonny's baby gets a name (and you can adopt him)!

Bonny Blaze

Yes, that's right, Bonny Fire's precious little bundle now has a name: Bonny Blaze.

And Blaze is now available for adoption by clicking here! What a great Christmas gift -- a certificate bearing Blaze's photo and personalised with your recipient's name, and the satisfaction that your donation has helped the hospital continue to care for other koalas who are not as lucky as little Blaze.

You can see what a handsome bundle he's growing into in this video:

Blaze is fully outside the pouch now, as you can see, and even wanders a little way off from Mum as his independence grows. He's also eating leaf, which is of course essential part of growing into a fully-fledged koala!

Click here to see more photos of Bonny Blaze.