Saturday, 26 June 2010

Noni Houdini

Cole Porter might have had Lighthouse Noni in mind back in the day when he penned the classic song "Don't Fence Me In".

Of course, no koala *wants* to be confined to a fenced yard, let alone an indoor unit, as is the case in our ICU. But treatment at the Koala Hospital involves something of a balancing act between giving koalas a little of the kind of freedom they enjoy in the wild, but not giving them so much freedom that it gets in the way of their treatment.

Some koalas are a flight risk, plain and simple. One such koala is Lighthouse Noni. The two times she's been admitted in as many years, Noni's shown nothing but eagerness to be rid of the place.

Like all our admissions, Noni was named for the area of Port Macquarie she came from - in her case, Lighthouse Beach - but "lighthouse" is an especially apt descriptor for Noni - she likes to be up high and out of reach!

18 June 2008
This is Noni perched up high near the roof beams of her unit, after her admission two years ago.

Lighthouse Noni
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.

27 August 2008
After her initial period of treatment, she was moved to outdoor rehabilitation yard where she preferred hanging out well above us mere mortals.

Lighthouse Noni
From brokenpuzzle's gallery.

6 June 2010
Noni was admitted again a few weeks ago with a recurrence of her chlamydial infection. I was talking with Peter where we cut leaf outside the ICUs on Sunday morning, when suddenly something caught my eye... It was a koala who seemed to be in no particular hurry, but was strolling about the beams near the roof! And, of course, it was Lighthouse Noni!

The doors to each indoor ICU unit are kept shut and latched. During morning cleaning when the volunteer must make multiple trips in and out of the unit (sweeping, mopping, laying towels, laying newspaper, replenishing leaf), the door is usually just pulled closed. This is generally enough to deter *most* koalas. But, Noni, it seemed, had found a new use for her scimitar claws - to prise open her door and escape! Up there for thinking, Noni!

Lighthouse Noni
From koalawrangler's gallery.

We haven't had such a wiley escape artist at the Hospital since the likes of O'Briens Fiona (whom we nicknamed "FiFi Houdini") because of her extraordinary number of escape attempts. Here is a bit of a blurry picture of Fiona doing exactly what I suspect Noni must have done - wiggling the door open with her claws!


I reckon that Noni was just checking up on our progress preparing her morning supply of fresh leaf! Peter quickly went and got Noni's pot of nutritional supplement and a ladder. I love the photo below, which looks as though we might have hoped that Noni mind climb down it of her own accord and return to her unit on her own. But, no, Peter trotted up the ladder and got Noni's attention with some food.


From koalawrangler's gallery.

Noni seemed perfectly happy to take the rest of her formula that way. It was like she was saying that her room service was a little late this morning!



Next Peter set about preparing Noni's bag in order to return her to her unit. Each koala has a dedicated bag to prevent any spread of infection between animals.

Lighthouse Noni
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Rather than bag her completely, however, Peter just used the bag to prevent Noni from biting him while detaching her. You can see her dangling free as I quickly pocket my camera and set about taking Noni from Peter and returning her to her unit.



Once back under lock and key, I finished feeding Noni her formula and replenished her unit with fresh leaf. She seemed to settle down after that.



Noni's gotten herself quite a reputation in these last few weeks. The other day, she leapt from her gunyah and landed on Peter's feet as he stood in the doorway.

It's obviously become such a common occurrence that Cheyne's put up a warning sign for unsuspecting vollies:


From koalawrangler's gallery.

20 June 2010
Last weekend, I happened to chance upon Emma helping Brooke service Noni's unit. Emma held up a towel to discourage her, but Noni still made a run for it!



The sooner we ship this one out, the sooner we can all rest! Fingers crossed Noni Houdini gets better soon.

Click here to view more snaps of Lighthouse Noni.