NEWS LETTER Vol.3 2011 August
Moggill Koala Hospital Corner "Life-saving Eucalyptus ～Radford’s Journey～"
Every day, sick and injured koalas are brought here to the Moggill Koala Hospital. Not all of them, however, are hospitalized, recover and return to the forest. In many cases, the koalas have already lost the strength to live by the time they are brought in, or they fail to recover even though we have cared for them with a certainty that they will get better.
Radford was one of those young koalas who breathed ever-so quietly and held onto life with little strength.
Radford was brought to the hospital one hot afternoon after being bitten by a dog. The fur on his body was matted and dirty where the dog had bitten him, but there was no obvious external wound. It was decided he should be observed overnight, and he was placed in a small enclosure in the ICU where there were eucalyptus leaves within reach even if he were on the floor. He was sound asleep due to the effects of the sedative he had been given in order to examine him. Everyone went home that day hoping that the next morning they would find him in the branches in the enclosure munching on some leaves.
But…the next morning we found Radford in exactly the same position we had left him in, still sound asleep even though the sedative should have well and truly worn off. Hoping against hope that the worst had not happened, we approached, calling his name gently. Then, he slowly opened his eyes a fraction. Thank goodness! We felt at least a little relieved, although we could not be completely reassured given that he was obviously so weak. The veterinarian and the rangers then began a discussion as to whether he should be kept in the hospital, with the option of euthanasia also in their thoughts.
Holding onto a fragment of hope, the volunteer carers cleaned Radford’s cage while this was going on. When some of the eucalyptus leaves that had remained untouched overnight were placed near his mouth, Radford opening his eyes and ate a few. With the urging of the carers who said, ‘He’s eating. Let’s give him a chance,’ and
He had been given a chance, so now it was vital to build up his strength. Small amounts of eucalyptus leaves were placed near his lowered head as the carers fed him young leaves. Each time we looked around his enclosure, our hearts always skipped a beat upon seeing him lying there as still as if he were dead. Despite having a second chance, we wondered if he would still be in the same state when we arrived the next morning. The mood was very sombre.
However, the next morning, we got the feeling that Radford looked like he had a bit more fighting spirit in his eyes. Although he was still lying on the floor, it looked as though he had eaten some of the leaves during the night. Radford had made it through another day. Every day it seemed that his eyes showed more and more will to live, and each day he moved further and further away from the possibility of euthanasia. Nevertheless, since he was still unable to climb up the tree, a long journey still had to be made until the day he would be able to return to the forest. Koalas that can’t climb trees cannot be returned to the wild.
Then, one day when it seemed that his strength was returning through eating some leaf a little at a time, Radford stopped eating all together. Without eating, a koala with no subcutaneous fat at all will immediately start to lose muscle. Even when we put leaves up to his mouth he showed no interest whatsoever.