It was a chilly morning on the 9th of June, when Julie Jennings received a call at 8am from our coordinator Simone Aurino to retrieve a dead body from the Gan Gan road near the One Mile caravan park.
Given rough directions to find the koala, there was no sign. Finally after a few more phone calls I found her. The lorry driver who hit her stopped, thinking she was dead, placed her into a shallow ditch at the side of the road. With a large plastic bag in hand I climbed down to get her and as I approached noticed that she was barely breathing, but still alive and to my surprise I saw her tummy wriggling. I rushed back to the car and grabbed a large towel, called Simone informing her that the koala wasn’t dead, it was a mother and joey inside her pouch and that I’m on my way to her.
I gently placed the mother onto the towel, wrapped her up with the joey undisturbed and rushed them to Simone’s house, just three minutes way. Upon arrival, within minutes, the mother had passed away. Realizing that the damage was to the mother’s head and that the joey appeared to be still alive, I videoed Simone extracting the joey from her pouch, which can be seen on Facebook.
“It’s a boy” …. Simone swiftly wrapped up the joey and tucked him into my jumper for warmth. Simone’s training and experience was on the money as we whisked both mother and joey to Sue Swain’s house, that’s just around the corner. Sue Swain is our experienced joey carer and what happened next, for me, a fairly novice carer, was amazing.
Knowing roughly what age he was, Sue knew he would be eating his mom’s Pap, a soft sticky poo she secretes for the joey to eat which kick start his system in readiness for eating leaf, giving his gut the good bacteria to process his food. Sue placed the mom’s body onto a table and proceeded to dissect her, carefully opening her tummy and exposing her intestines. I’m in shock, but also realizing what sue was doing… which was to extract as much Pap as we could. So it was all hands on deck and I was there offering the little jars for sue to fill. It was like seeing sausage links being squeezed and emptied, with Sue squeezing and dragging this sticky dark brown mess as neatly as she could into each jar.
Meanwhile Simone checked the mother for a microchip and yes, she was chipped after she was rescued from a swimming pool and given the name Macey. Naming this little male joey went without a thought as both Simone and I have a son called Mason. Mason was weighed and at 262 grams, looking like a large mouse with short hair and mouse like ears, we estimate his was five months old.
Sue is our Joey expert, so it was natural for her to care for Mason, especially when he was so tiny, but Sue had just taken in another joey 3 days before called Louise. Louise had been blown from a tree in a fierce storm, the same storm that blew a very large branch onto my cage and rendered it unusable.
Knowing it would be ideal for these two joeys to be reared together for company and socializing, Sue took them both on.
Five days later, I was asked to collect a big male koala called Rupert who was reported by a member of the public to be walking funny whilst crossing a road. As my cage was still out of action and the only one available for me to do a mobility check was at Sue’s. It was immediately apparent that he was just fine, so he was bundled away and released back to where he was found.
While still at Sue’s house, she asked me to have a go at feeding Mason. He had been reluctant to feed and Sue thought some one else might have better luck…. She was absolutely right and I was asked to do as many feeds as possible while the big decision was made to hand Mason over to me.
Mason spent the first two months living in a washing basket complete with a jungle of leaf and a teddy. Until he weighed 800 grams he was also kept warm with artificial heat. His feeding times where gradually reduced from 3 hourly to 4, 5, 6 and now he’s twice a day.
It has been my mission to try and provide him as many experiences that his mom would give, such as smell, sounds and touch, all of which can be found in my garden. Three climbing gyms have been built for him but there’s nothing like the real thing, so Mason is practicing on various food trees that are also in my garden.
Once he has reached over two kilo’s in weight and around twelve months old, he will be completely weaned off formula and human contact will be restricted to a absolute minimum in readiness for him to be relocated to a “de-humanizing” yard where he will no longer see me at all. He will also be introduced to and will live with another Joey to learn some koala socializing skills before he is released back into the wild.
Losing his mom was tragic and he’s missed out on all that she would offer. I can only hope that my caring for him has given him security, love and the confidence he needs to succeed as a big Alpha male in the future.