Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Study confirms bellowing is music of love to female koalas

An interesting article in the Courier Mail regarding research into what the unique bellow of the male koala means:

"Study confirms bellowing is music of love to female koalas"

You can hear the sounds of both the male and female koalas before mating here (caught on my mobile phone voice recorder last week!):

Click here to view the latest koala hospital snaps.

December Gum Tips -- out now!

The December issue of Gum Tips, the Koala Hospital newsletter, is out now!

Click on the
cover to download it or browse past issues of Gum Tips here.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Sparky Koala set free!

Although the Koala Hospital was not involved, here's a koala story to warm the cockles of your heart.... A koala managed to find its way into a zone substation on the mid north coast. Electrical technicians were called in to deal with the misplaced marsupial. They enlisted the help of some local wildlife volunteers to relocate the koala safely to some nearby bushland.

The story was reported in the October 2009 edition of Cross Country, the newspaper for Country Energy employees.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Wild koala sighting!

Friends of mine were visiting from out of town this morning and they were delighted by a wild koala sighting as we were on our way out to breakfast.

I saw the speckly-grey one galloping across the McLaren Drive (fortunately near the koala corridor where residents know to slow down), before shooting up a tree in Nulla Close.

He had a green tag in his left ear, which signified he was a former Hospital patient and a male. His bottom was slightly dirty but dry, so he was probably a former wet-botton sufferer. It can take some time for the Chlamydial staining to grow out.

He made the familiar male cry (which you can hear here) as he clambered up the tree then stopped and looked down at us.

I went back and checked later in the day and he was still in the same tree. Hope he stays off the roads!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Koala mating call

It's that time of year again, when the "noise you never forget" starts wafting through the night air, often at the most inconvenient times, such as 3am when we humans are in a deep sleep. Yawn.

Just tonight at about 9.45pm, our neighbourhood was serenaded by one big-lunged koala male. He was in the tree in next door's yard. His mating call went on for so long that I managed to catch some of it on my mobile phone voice recorder.

You can listen to the koala mating call here.

Just for the heck of it, I've included a photo below of a male koala, Coastlands Steve, who was a recent patient at the Hospital. Although he wasn't grunting at the time, this is much the same position their heads are in when they do. Imagine this cute, furry critter producing such a racket!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Peter Garrett meets Birthday Girl

The Honorable Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for the Environment, visited the Koala Hospital today. He pledged his support for the addition of koalas to the threatened species list.

First he met with Barb who told him about hand-rearing the joey, Settlement Point Bea:

Earlier I had caught young Bea enjoying her lunchtime snack on film, here:

Then the Hon. Mr Garrett met with our 22-year-old pride and joy, Birthday Girl:

...and then shared a bit of choccy cake with Cheyne and Bob:

In other news, the gorgeous Oxley Highway Matt, he of the broken pelvis from yesterday's post, decided he was much better today and escaped his yard. He was located first thing this morning, pottering around the leaf shed (obviously wondering when breakfast was arriving).

He's been relocated one yard over where there is a nice tree for him to climb, complete with "trainer wheels" (i.e. a pole extending directly from the gunyah to the tree). Once his pelvis is fully healed, he'll be released back to the real world.

Click here to view more photos of Peter Garrett's visit to the koala hospital today.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Oxley Highway Matt

"Have you met Matt?" Peter asked me as we headed towards yard 5.

There were no leaf pots on the gunyah, the usual sure sign that a koala was occupying that yard. And no sign of a koala either, that is until I approached the fence and looked down...

Two large buckets of water were arrayed on the ground and spilling over with bunches of fresh eucalyptus leaf. Peering from between this leafy arrangement was a most extraordinary sight: a breathtakingly beautiful koala with a pink speckled nose. He was sitting most serenely among the gum tips in what looked to be a dog basket! The paw-print pattern on the basket lining was something of a giveaway.

Oxley Highway Matt is a young adult male koala who was hit by a car on the Oxley Highway. He suffered a broken pelvis but is otherwise a beautiful specimen of koalahood. In the morning sun, his white chest was gleaming so brightly that I could actually observe the journey of two tiny tick nymphs making their way up towards his chin. His fur was otherwise a healthy grey and his ears were round and bushy like he'd just been to a salon.

He looked remarkably "chilled", considering his predicament. He is able to climb a little but will spends most of this early part of his recovery down at ground level. The basket is filled with soft towels and the bedding is changed every day. The vollies also give him lovely new bunches of leaf each morning and refresh them in the afternoon with a spritz of water.

While I was there, I offered him a sprig of eucalptus and took it and a had a nibble. What a chilled out koalavidual!

See Matt chilling out on video here:

Click here to view more snaps of Oxley Highway Matt.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Clover's a dad!

One of our former residents, a male koala called Livingstone Clover, has done us proud. Clover was unable to be returned to the wild due to a hindleg injury, so he was 'retired' to Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park back in late 2007. Except that he's not of retirement age, and aside from his gammy leg, is an otherwise healthy breeding male. So Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park thought he'd be perfect as a stud male for their posse of breeding females.

Things started out slowly, without much to show for Clover's presence during the the first 18 months. Then, lo and behold, Clover fathered not one but TWO joeys with two different female koalas. One is too little to be showing itself out of the pouch, but the other fellow, an as-yet-unnamed male joey has been delighting carers and visitors at the Park in recent weeks.

There is a interesting story about the mother of the joey. She was conceived at Dreamworld, where her mother had been artificially inseminated with assistance from researchers at the University of Queensland. The resulting joey was named Daiquiri, after the program initials: Dreamworld Artificial Insemination Queensland University. And now Daiquiri's become a mum the old-fashioned way with our Livingstone Clover.

So we feel bit like proud grandparents here at the Koala Hospital. We're glad that Livingstone Clover has done his bit to boost koala numbers and look forward to photos of baby no. 2 when s/he decides to give us a peep. Meanwhile, let's ogle that cuddly little joey some more:

Friday, 31 July 2009

A poke in the eye with a blunt stick

I had heard that an old friend of ours was back at the Koala Hospital, so I decided to pay him a visit. It wasn't the best decision I could have made. Read on and you'll see why.

Granite Murray, the old friend in question, is a handsome male koala who spent some time at the hospital about 18 months ago. Back then, Murray was placed in a recovery yard that contained a tree as well as the usual gunyah. A major branch of the tree had been severed to prevent recovering koalas from escaping (or "self-releasing", as it is euphemistically called) to nearby trees (they are wiley critters that way). This left a rather broad stump that Murray used climb upon and majestically survey the hospital grounds. You can read more about his last visit in the post, Who's the real king of the jungle?!. He's one of those lovely, easygoing "boofy" male koalas we fondly call "dudes", for their Zen-like placidity.

Murray came back into the Hospital recently, looking a bit run-down and with his wet bottom flaring up again. I noticed he was awake and enjoying a leaf snack on his gunyah, so I ventured into his yard to take some happy snaps.

That was my first mistake.

Now, I do call myself the "koalawrangler", which is something of an ironic overstatement of the job (it's more dustpans-and-brooms than chairs-and-whips), so you can take my pretensions of photojournalism (and the derring-do and adventure that implies) with an equally large grain of salt. Photographing koalas is a mostly riskfree activity without much chance of injury.

So there I was chatting away to Murray, and clicking away while he chomped on his leaf and took very little notice of me at all. Peter and Judy were also nearby talking to me about Murray's well-known laidback demeanour.

Then, suddenly, something hard and sharp came out of nowhere and hit me in the eye! Oh, don't worry, the "attack" was in no way koala-related, although I did wonder if there was some truth in those rumours of drop bears that I remember someone's older brother scaring me with as a child. That and Henny Penny's lament: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!".

What had happened was nothing more than a dead stick falling from tree. It happens all the time. But even a spindly eucalyptus branch in freefall can pick up some speed and pack a punch. I felt like I'd been kicked in the face. The point of the stick had ricocheted off my eyebrow, scraped my lid and then dug into the soft skin under my eye - all in a split second. When I put my hands to my face, they came away with blood on them.

Murray was still chomping away, oblivious of me and my injury. Peter and Judy, meanwhile, were much more reactive and quickly ushered me into the koala treatment room where Cheyne, the Hospital Supervisor, was in consultation most conveniently with our visiting vet. I had nothing to worry about - I was placed in the best of koala care!

Chris the vet flashed a torch in my eye to check for bits of bark while Cheyne set about cleaning the wounds with Betadine. It stung a bit and I wondered if it would help if I bit or scratched her since that would be more like what she was used to. I whimpered, "it hurts!", and she said I was being a big wuss. Maybe I should wee on the treatment table, I thought, that'll fix her. Then she offered to give me an ultrasound like she does the koalas. That shut me up. I was reminded of the expression about something being better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick, and now I'm fairly sure that's true!

Chris the vet also put a drop of dye in my eye to check for scratches but I got the all clear. Some of the staff in the day room were muttering, "how did she get a tick in her eye?", which just goes to show how information can get corrupted in about two minutes' flat.

To be on the safe side, I paid a visit to a friend of mine who's a GP. He cleaned up the wounds a bit more, snipped off some skin and patched me up with some steri strip. Oh, I look quite a sight! My modelling days (not) might just be over!

But I'm not the only one "in the wars", as my Nan would say. One of our new patients, Cherrygum John, self-released yesterday and in the process of his recapture, lost his eartag. When I came in this morning he was just finishing his nutritional supplement after getting tagged in the right ear. This messes with the system slightly - males are tagged on the left and females on the right (because women are always right). It's been suggested that John might have something of a gender identity crisis on his hands, but he didn't look too bothered about the ramifications of arbitrary human symbolic systems to me. He just wanted more formula.

In other news, I saw a koala cross the road in the very street I live in the other day. He (there was a tag in his left ear) was ambling across the street in that ungainly way koalas have when they're on the ground. I slowed the car and waited for him to cross. His bottom was clear but he looked like he had a bit of spinal curvature to me. He headed straight up a tree by the road, so I couldn't stop and ask how or who he was...

I knew he wasn't Bowden Sam, a koala named after yours truly when he was brought in from a street just near our house last Summer. Unfortunately, I'd learned from Amanda that Sam had been brought back in DOA recently :(

There's hope for our Granite Murray though. My advice to him, though, is don't look up - a stick might just hit you in the eye.

Here are more photos of lovely Granite Murray.

Friday, 12 June 2009

June Gum Tips out now!

The June issue of Gum Tips, the Koala Hospital newsletter, is out now!

Click on the cover to download it or browse other issues of Gum Tips here.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Salamander Bay Shazza

Salamander Bay Shazza is a delightful female joey 'on loan' to us from our friends at the Native Animal Trust Fund in Port Stephens. By 'on loan' I mean, of course, that Shazza no longer needed the special attention of home care and was ready to practise being a proper koala. This means having access to good climbing trees in a safe environment. As the NATF don't have these facilities, Shazza is currently residing in our special training yard containing a lovely big eucalyptus for her to gain climbing confidence until she is ready for her release to Salamander Bay.

You can see Shazza testing out her reversing skills as she makes her way down to the gunyah for a feed in this video:

Normally when a koala joey is old enough to start moving towards independence from her mother, Mama Koala is still nearby lending a watchful eye. As Shazza is sadly an orphan, we at the Koala Hospital fulfil this function to some extent. We have a very "hands-off" approach to joeys - literally this means no touching to ensure that the joey is fully dehumanised prior to release. However, expert care and medical treatment is nearby if ever Shazza should need it. However, it seems that she is doing well, gaining weight and getting around her tree with no trouble whatsoever.

By the way, for our overseas readers, "Shazza" is an Australian diminutive for "Sharon"!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Team Koala's "Save the Koala" Dance

Some people with a little too much time on their hands...but, hey, they want to save the koala!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Nigel the orphaned baby wombat

Speaking of pinkies, meet Nigel.

Nigel is an orphaned baby wombat. Wombats, for those who don't know, are actually the koala's closest relative. In fact wombats are even a bit smarter than our favourite tree-dwelling, folivorous marsupial (their brains are more convoluted).

I'm told that our intrepid team of relief koalawranglers became quite weak at the knees when they met sweet little Nigel. As regular readers will know, the team recently jetted off on a mercy mission to Victoria - headin to those areas ravaged by bushfires where they could give a hand to local wildlife carers down there after the recent horrific fires.

Nigel was not one of the animals they rescued - he resides in the loving hands of Clair, a local woman who has been caring for wombats for 35 years. She has had literally thousands come through her doors.

"What a dude," was all one of the Koala Hospital handlers could say. "All the staff of the koala hospital who were there went to total pieces when they saw him."

Nigel is doing well under Clair's care. He is moving from the ranks of pinkie to a fully fledged (and soon-to-be fully furred) joey as he is just beginning to get his fur.

Yep, what a dude.

Photos courtesy of Amanda Gordon.

What is a pinky/pinkie?

I wrote a post about the rescue of Joanne the baby kangaroo and a follow-up indicating that she was doing well.

A fellow blogger has commented that a baby kangaroo (or koala, for that matter) seems to be called a “joey” one minute and a “pinky” (or "pinkie") the next. I thought I should explain why this is in more detail here.

Briefly, "joey" is the generic name for the babies of most marsupials, eg: kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, possums, etc. So, the young marsupial is always a “joey”, but in the earliest phase of a joey’s development it is called a "pinky".

The reason for the different names is that marsupials are not like other mammals; they are not born, and that’s that.

When a koala is born it is about 2cm long, weighs 0.5g and has no fur. This tiny creature crawls up on the outside of its mother, through her fur and up into the pouch which runs vertically down her body (unlike the kangaroo’s which is horizontal). There is an excellent photo of a tiny, pinky koala on the Warrnambool Wildlife Rescue page, showing it drinking from its mother's teat.

The baby spends several months in the pouch where it drinks her milk and grows in size. As I said above, the new-born baby is furless. Without its fur, the baby is just pink skin so until the baby grows its full coat of fur, it is called pinky. You rarely see much a pinky joey outside the pouch unless it is an orphaned pinky being cared for by humans. In the wild, the pinky remains in the mother’s pouch for warmth. Even if it were furred, it would be too small and feeble to get about on its own.

In human terms, a pinky is like a premature baby. They need a lot of care and may not survive. Like premature human babies, very young pinkies are kept in knitted pouches in a humidcrib to simulate the warmth and feeling of a real pouch (or womb).

With lots of special care, they can survive, but it is touch and go. The younger they are, the smaller they are, and the more frequent feeds they require. Such a small animal is not designed to be outside the pouch, so they usually need the care of a pinky expert – someone who has had a lot of experience caring for pinkies.

Just to complicate matters, there is a special class of marsupials called monotremes. There are only two animals in this sub-class: the echidnas and the platypus. They are warm-blooded like other mammals but lay eggs. Their young are not called joeys. Baby echidnas are called “puggles”, whereas, curiously, baby platypi don’t have a name!

As I don't work with monotremes, I don't know if their very young babies are called pinkies as well. Here is a photo of a young puggle...it certainly does look rather pink!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Baby kangaroo ("pinky") update

I must confess that when I posted that story about a friend of mine rescuing a baby kangaroo, I was a bit worried the wee little pinky might not make it.

Then I caught up with the same friend last week. I was delighted to hear that WIRES had called her a little while after the event with some good news. The pinky joey had survived and was doing well!

She is being cared for by a local pinky expert who raises other orphaned baby kangaroos. So she has some playmates as well!

And she now has a name. They've named her "Joanne". Joanne, the joey. Geddit? :)

I do love a good news story.

You can read about Joanne's rescue here.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Koala Hospital koalawranglers return from Victorian mercy mission

They wanted to keep it low-key, just go down and get the job done without fanfare, but the news that four of our experienced Koala Hospital staff and volunteers heading off to help in the Victorian firegrounds and wildlife care facilities has hit NBN TV.

See Port Koala Carers Help Victoria [includes video interview].

Our team flies home to Port Macquarie this afternoon after 10 days of hard, heartbreaking work carrying out fireground searches for injured wildlife (all wildlife, by the way, not just koalas) and setting up triage for those animals recovered. When I approached Virgin Blue about whether they could help out with the flights to send our people down there, their response was simply "tell us what we can do". The airline funded the flights to and from Melbourne and were prepared to transport up to the Koala Hospital for treatment if it came to that.

Sam the Koala. From Daily Telegraph.
[I'm always amazed by how different Victorian koalas look to their NSW counterparts. Vic wahlees are larger and much fluffier.]

The small shelters in Victoria are still doing it tough. The Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter where carers like Colleen Wood are selflessly treating and caring for wildlife affected by these fires, including Sam the koala, are crying out for financial support. You can donate here: www.samthekoala.com.au

See Wildlife shelter plea to help bushfire victim Sam the Koala [this story also includes the now famous footage of Sam the koala drinking water offered by a firefighter David Tree].

As for this article, I am not at all surprised that Sam's carers are refusing to let Tree see or be photographed with Sam. I know wildlife carers, and any wildlife carer worth their salt would not compromise the well-being of even one animal for personal or financial gain or an ounce of publicity.

The animal's care is paramount to them.

That's what makes them such special people.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Rescued baby kangaroo ("pinky")

A friend of mine was on the road recently and found herself taking a detour to collect a young marsupial passenger.

Here is what she said:

When I was driving to Bathurst this morning about 30kms our side of Oberon, I saw a dead kangaroo on the road. I thought I saw something move near the roo so at the next driveway I did a U-turn and went back to investigate. There on the road was a pink little joey. Every time it tried to hop, it fell on its face because it was so young. Luckily I had a jacket with me, so picked it up, wrapped it in the jacket and put in on the back seat of the car.

WIRES here in Bathurst have now picked up the joey. I hope it survives!
Like the koala, the kangaroo carries its young in a pouch until it is ready to get about on its own. Such joeys are called "pinkies" because they are unfurred, giving them a pink appearance.

What happened to my friend is an important lesson to motorists who might pass a dead animal on the road without a second glance. If the animal is a marsupial, there is every possibility that, while the mother might be dead, she could be carrying young in her pouch that is still very much alive...if they are not left to die by the roadside with the mother, that is. Care facilities like WIRES (Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation) have equipment like humidicribs as well as experienced carers who can raise pinkies. This heartbreaking work is not always successful, but it gives the pinky a much better chance of survival than being left by the road to die!

My friend probably saved that baby kangaroo's life!

Monday, 2 March 2009

March Gum Tips out now!

The March issue of Gum Tips, the Koala Hospital newsletter, is out now!

Click on the cover to download it or browse other issues of Gum Tips here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Warrego Martin

I haven't written anything in response to the horrific fires in Victoria and their devastating toll on koalas and other Australian wildlife primarily because I am unspeakably saddened by the whole thing.

The Koala Hospital has been in regular contact with carers in Victoria who are treating wildlife there and we have offered the support of our expertise and personnel if they need it. At this stage, we're being led by them.

So meanwhile, I have a more uplifting story of koala 'parent', this time one I found online.

Warrego Martin is one of our 'repeat offenders'. He's been in three times that I know of, most recently in December 2008. He came in a little rundown and needing some R&R.

Martin's new 'parents' talk about his adoption here.

You can see more photos of Warrego Martin here.

You can adopt Warrego Martin for yourself here.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Davide and Bonny Blaze

I often get lovely emails from people around the world who have questions about the Hospital or simply messages of support for the work we do.

The other day I received a note from a Mum who had adopted Bonny Blaze for her 10-year-old son, Davide. Here is a message from Davide himself and a lovely photo of him with his much-prized adoption certificate:

Domenica, 18 Gennaio 2009, 10:29

Hi, I'm Davide, a 10 years old Italian boy. Since I was a little child, I've been loving Australia and especially the koalas. When I saw a real koala at Wien zoo in Austria for the first time, I started to want my "own koala". My mum showed me the koala hospital online and I was very happy to know that there are people caring about koalas. I love them! At the beginning of 2009 I received the most beautiful present in my life: Bonny Blaze! My dream is to work in your hospital as a volunteer and take care about koalas. Go on with your fantastic work, we're very proud of you!

Hugs to all volunteers and a big big hug to all your koalas!


DavideHere is a photo of everything Davide received in his adoption kit (minus the cuddly toy koala which I suspect is Davide's own!):

Davide's adoption kidYou can bring the joy of 'parenting' a koala to your child by adopting one here! You will help to breed the next generation of koalas and the next generation of wildlife warriors by raising your kids' awareness of the plight of vulnerable and endangered species.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Bonny Fire: mother of the year

Well, readers, the first day of 2009 carried with it some sad and unexpected news. Bonny Fire, the doyenne of yard 9, drew her last breath in the early hours of 1 January 2009.

Bonny had been her same old self – bright, alert and maintaining a good weight – right up until Christmas. But between Christmas and new year, she began to refuse her nutritional supplement which, for her, was not normal. Over the next two days, she became lethargic and flat, so she was put on a rehydrating drip, but without noticeable improvement.

Then it was new year’s eve, not that the voluntary koala care stops at the koala hospital – no matter what day of the year it is. Judy, one of our dedicated home carers, didn’t want to leave Bonny unmonitored, so she took her into home care overnight with plenty of fresh leaf at hand. However, when she went to check on her during the early hours of the morning, Bonny had already joined Cloud, Wiruna Lucky and O’Briens Fiona, our other much-loved former occupants of yard 9, in that great gum tree in the sky.

Unfortunately, the lack of obvious clinical signs meant there was absolutely nothing we could have done for her. It is also typical for wildlife to hide their clinical signs until the end – a form of natural-selection survival strategy.

We suspect that the cause of death might have been lymphatic cancer, which was suggested by the presence of enlarged lymph nodes and unusual fatty material throughout the lymphatics. Also, koalas with lymphomas tend to deteriorate very quickly – sometimes in a matter of days – which certainly reflects what happened to Bonny. However, this is still a tentative assessment and we need to wait for the results of tests to be carried out by the University of Sydney to be sure.

Who was Bonny Fire? Bonny (as she was always known) was admitted to the Koala Hospital in Spring 2001 after being rescued from a fire at nearby Bonny Hills. A young adult koala weighing 3.75kg, she sustained burns to all four limbs, nose, chin and ears. Through diligent care and treatment, Bonny’s main injuries healed, although she was left with permanent damage to the claws, digits and palms on her hands and feet. Similar injuries would have little effect on the survivability of ground-dwelling animals, but for a tree-dwelling marsupial, such damage carries a devastating toll. Robust claws, strong digits and leathery palm surfaces are critical to climbing, and climbing is the mainstay of the koala’s existence: it enables them to seek adequate food, shelter and to avoid predators.

As a result, Bonny could never be released, but remained at the Hospital as an “education” koala. Like Cloud before her, Bonny played an important role in wildlife care by giving researchers access to a living animal with legacy bushfire damage. Observing Bonny’s day-to-day life contributed to our current understanding of the absolute priority the must be made of hand and foot health when treating koalas. This knowledge now determines releasability and hence treatability, since our ultimate aim in the Hospital is to release healthy koalas back to the wild where they belong.

Unlike in the wild, here at the Koala Hospital we could made changes to Bonny’s surroundings to make her life easier. Narrow wooden poles were erected to enable direct access from Bonny’s gunyah to the gum trees in her yard. She was also given frequent “manicures” as her misshapen claws frequently became overgrown; something that normal climbing wear-and-tear generally prevents in healthy koalas.

Some of you may recall that it was during such a routine claw trimming in 2008 that we first became aware that Bonny was eating for two. A rogue male koala had started hanging around the trees outside the Hospital during the koala mating season in late 2007. When he was found in Bonny’s yard one fine morning, tongues started wagging; and video evidence taken during her claw trimming proved that Bonny was indeed “with pinkie”. (You can see the video and read more about Bonny's midnight triste here.)

In the months that followed, Bonny’s pouch bump became more and more pronounced, and her son, Bonny Blaze, finally started to delight us all by peaking out of his mother’s pouch. When he did, everyone remarked on what a great Mum Bonny was. Of course, she had done it all before – back in 2005 Bonny became Mum to Blaze’s older sister, Bonny Ash (released in 2006). Then, it was a fellow patient who broke into Bonny’s yard in 2004. (As anyone who works with koalas will tell you, if a koala wants out of an enclosure, they can generally work out a way; and if it’s mating season and a male koala wants in, equally, there’s no stopping them!)

Bonny was protective of Blaze in the pouch and then, once he was too big for it, she could be seen cuddling little Blaze fit to break your heart! It was pure joy to watch Bonny bounding around her gunyah with Blaze in tow – attached to her tummy or affixed to her back like a caboose! Then, once Blaze grew big enough to gain some independence, he was placed in a nearby yard for dehumanising. Bonny’s dependence on us for supportive nutrition meant that Blaze was exposed to frequent human contact right along with his mum; so it is important for any joey in our care, since they (usually) require no treatment, to spend time completely away from humans before their release. But, before you start to think that Bonny’s separation from Blaze might have triggered some sort of empty nest syndrome (um, if koalas had nests, which they don’t), that’s simply not the case. It is usual for juvenile koalas to move away from their mothers (but still within or overlapping their mother’s home range where she can keep an eye on him). So, Blaze’s relocation mimicked what would have happened in the wild.

Blaze might have had more than a little something to do with extending Bonny’s life, however. I found myself thinking, that perhaps Bonny had “soldiered” on despite her illness, just long enough to see Blaze make his way in the world. Initially, that seemed a little too sentimental, smacking a little too much of anthropomorphising (which Cheyne is always trying to kick out of me); but as it turns out, there is some sound scientific support to such a notion.

You see, koala mothers are tremendously dedicated. At the Hospital we have seen other examples of female koalas enduring horrid growths/cancerous conditions, but all the while lactating and still nurturing their joeys. They give up fighting for their own health only once the joey is weaned, and literally drop off the perch – leaving behind big, healthy, well-nourished joeys to carry on the family line. What troopers!

It will seem so strange not too see Bonny in her usual tree, but there are also things that uplift me about Bonny’s life and even her death. It is somehow satisfying that Bonny wasn’t cut down in her prime, like so many of our koalas, by one of the “big four”: dog attack, motor vehicle accident, Chlamydial infection, or bushfire. Ironically, the injuries she sustained in the fire that gave Bonny her name meant she enjoyed a life at the Koala Hospital that she could never have had in the wild. She even managed to produce two healthy joeys to boot (and no doubt a swag of grand-joeys!)

It’s probably anthropomorphic of me, but I’m also gladdened by the fact that Bonny spent her last hours not alone, but comfortably in the home of a koala carer. It heartens me to know that Bonny was looked after with that special Koala Hospital care, right up until the end.

Click here to view more photos of Bonny Fire.

Click here to adopt Bonny Blaze.

Click here to adopt Bonny Ash.