Not More Browse!!!! – Brenda

One morning I was sitting quietly with a cuppa after the second of the daily feeds and wondering just how much longer I would be tramping the neighbourhood looking for leaves when the phone rang “do you have room for a koala”? My first thought was ‘the branches’, where would I get enough branches for a koala, as well as those needed for the gliders and possums, not to mention, the gunyah and space for a koala. The only area I had still vacant no longer had a usable gunyah, it was laying on the ground in one of the large aviaries where it had been put when the shed used for koalas had its floor concreted. The koala was at the vet clinic being examined and the rescuer had called regarding questions the vet had regarding the injuries. I told the vet the koala would no doubt be very thin and also badly dehydrated. The vet confirmed these concerns as well as a description of the injuries sustained in the road accident. The injuries were diagnosed as probably fixable so the dehydration and starvations were possibly the major concerns. I explained the problems koalas in our region have during the very hot windy summer weather and that most often they are found on the ground having fallen out of their tree through dehydration and starvation. I asked for it to be given large amounts of fluids over the day and organised it to be left at the clinic overnight. There went the cuppa and relaxing hour and off I went to try to set up the gunyah which was spectacularly unsuccessful although I had most of the required bits and pieces when my rescuer arrived with the koala the following day and he set up the required seating arrangements for the patient.
The major accident damage to the koala was around its mouth, however it was incredibly thin – the spine was prominent – and despite being given lots of fluids, the dehydration was still calculated as severe. The injury meant it was unable to eat leaves, so began the thrice daily routine of mixing and feeding special semi-liquid food, spoon by spoon which took almost an hour each time. This mix offers nutrition and fluid, both much needed. Over the next few days the koala was given more fluids and antibiotics and it began to lap the food straight out of the bowl taking the almost 3 hours each day eventually down to half that time. Leaves were also set up around the gunyah although only a few as it was unable to take any except new soft tips and these had to be hand fed and held until each leaf was well into the mouth. The hand feeding of the soft food continued for 3 weeks then reduced over a week until it was no longer given and the koala was close to release. It had begun gathering its own leaves after the first week but only soft premium young leaves were eaten – old dull dry leaves were simply not acceptable so the ‘leaf hunt’ was spreading further and further away. When Garry was home he would drive for 15 or 20mins from home to find trees, my lovely rescuer also called in a few times with fresh picked branches. Release day is always a mix of ‘but what ifs’ and relief at the lightened work load. This was no exception.
Currently we have no leaf eaters in care, the gliders canopy leaves don’t have to be lush and edible, just suitable for the 3 in care females to practice their bobbing, weaving, gliding and harvesting of insects and nectar before release in a short time and I’m very thankful for that but still find myself checking out every tree on the way anywhere and wondering just where I would be positioning myself with the loppers in order to cut a branch without dropping it directly on me.
I’m not the only one with stealth and agility – well, these days maybe neither of us could boast much stealth or agility – who gathers browse for Brushtails and Ringtails in care, friend Cheryl has the same daily chore.
For both species, but more so for Ringtails, as well as gathering leaves we also take note of flower buds, and blossom from native trees and shrubs and before too long know where we’ll be grocery shopping today and where it will be tomorrow and the next day and so on. Why? Because that particular shopping centre has native trees or shrubs with young leaves, blossom or buds and the next one has buds yet to open so its noted for later in the week. We can manoeuvre our way around housing estates in exactly the same way – the houses with flowers hanging over the fences are often our special targets.
Unlike me, Cheryl on occasion collects her browse after dark and related to me the adventures of a few weeks ago. After dining out she remembered one of ‘her’ special trees was close by and decided to give her possums some of the luscious offerings from this tree. Being a familiar tree, no light was needed so off she tripped with hubby in tow to the tree. Standing on tippy-toes and reaching high she gathered a large handful of small branches with what looked/felt to be suitable leaves which suddenly felt not quite right, it felt as though something much more substantial than a handful of leaves had been gathered. Now, I’m listening to the tale and wondering what was to come when the laughter starts and I’m told about the very indignant magpie that had been ungraciously woken from its nightly slumber and dragged from its comfy leafy bough – I suggest it’s probably just as well that we are yet to master magpie language but I gather it didn’t sound complimentary. But yes, our intrepid leaf collector was successful and took home the spoils. I wonder if she also related the adventure to her beautiful charges and if the magpie ever slept in that tree again.

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