It was the 26th of November. The morning routines were done and something unusual caught my eye at the bottom of the meadow near the forest. It was a koala ambling around in circles. Round and round and round. I’d never seen a koala behave like that before. Usually they’re up in a tree or, if on the ground, will soon scamper up the nearest tree if there are people around. This one just kept wandering in circles slowly moving further from the forest into the meadow.

I called out to my daughter then cautiously approached it but it seemed completely unaware of my presence. I stopped about 15 meters away as I didn’t want to scare it by getting too close. I could see its eyes were quite red. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and took a couple of photos. My daughter phoned WIRES, our local wildlife rescue volunteers and they immediately contacted Friends of the Koala in Lismore who sent out a koala rescue team.

By then the koala had found its way back to the edge of the forest and climbed up a young tallowwood tree.  The rescue team asked some questions and proceeded to assess the situation. They were concerned about the unusual behaviour and I showed them a photo where they could see her red eyes. Sadly she was definitely very sick and suffering with Chlamydia and would need treatment. She was too far up the tree to capture by hand so they returned later in the day to install a trap at the base of the tree.

Lindy, one of the rescuers, gave me some important advice. “Next time you see a sick koala on the ground, trap it with a washing basket. Just put it over the koala and keep the basket pressed down to the ground so it can’t escape and call us immediately. We’ll be here in a few minutes to get it.”

The trap took some time to install and was set up with two cameras connected in real time with Paul and Lindy, our local Nimbin rescuers. At midnight, the koala climbed down the tree and entered the trap. They collected her straight away and took her to the Koala Centre in Lismore. She was given the name, Rosebud, and was checked out by the vet in the morning.

Koala rescue team setting up the trap

For the next two weeks Rosebud was constantly on my mind. Would she recover and be brought back to our lovely habitat here at Djanbung Gardens or would she succumb to the fate of far too many koalas infected by the deadly Chlamydia disease?

I then received the news I’d dreaded. Paul messaged me on December 6,
“I have sad news about Rosebud… she hasn’t made it. I’m afraid her cysts (she had multiple cysts inside her) were out of control. After an Xray an attempt was made to help her recover but to no avail….”
“Thank you for trying to help save her… if we have to rescue another one near you I hope we catch them sooner so treatment can be successful….. these days the odds are stacked against our beautiful Koalas but efforts like yours and ours are the only life line they have….thanks again Robyn”

I asked Paul for any tips if we see another koala here and what to look for, say if we observe one through binoculars. He replied “using binoculars is a good idea, we do all the time for assessing koalas. Things to look out for are
• a dirty (brown) damp bottom,
• coloured dark brown fur is not good (they usually look shabby if so). Fur should be grey/white.
• if they are skinny with boniness showing around head and body,
• the eyes being red and covered in scab,
• low to the ground and not really moving about much.
These are a few things you can look out for… and also if you are seeing one and want us to come asses it ring Friends of Koalas on 66221233, they will get on to us and we will come out straight away if we can.”

Koalas are losing vast areas of habitat with forest clearing, many die untimely deaths as road kill and from dog attacks, and if they escape these fates there’s the deadly disease.

I was exceptionally impressed by the professionalism and dedication of our local koala rescuers and immensely grateful for the work they do.
Please support Friends of the Koala and check out their website for a wealth of information and the many ways you can be involved. https://www.friendsofthekoala.org/

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