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.