In February a small koala with a broken leg was picked up by a motorist on the Black Mountain Road near the Nymboi-Binderay National Park. At just 2.8kg, barely ready to leave her mother, the little koala was in a sorry state and would have died fairly quickly had she not been immediately taken to Ray Barnett's Clarence Valley Vet Clinic in Grafton.
WIRES was called, and little Peta, named after her rescuer, was X-rayed by Ray Barnett under a general anaesthetic and given a thorough checkup in contact with the Queensland Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. That same afternoon, still comfortably sleeping, she was transferred to Friends of Koala in Lismore, and by next morning was in surgery with the world's leading koala vets at the Australian Wildlife Hospital (AWH).
|Peta in care at the Australian Wildlife Hospital
There Peta stayed for the next six months, lending herself well to captive care, gaining in weight, strength and agility as she underwent therapy and gathering the hearts of all who met her. This included the journalists of Australian Geographic, whose website now includes a video of Peta patiently undergoing her daily workouts.
Finally, her limp gone and able to climb again with confidence, Peta was given the all clear by AWH director, Rosie Booth to return home.
A release site was chosen not far from where she was found, and last weekend Peta was returned to her hinterland mountain home. Last seen she was munching contentedly in one of her favourite food trees to the notes of the bell-birds she had grown up with.
Aside from a lovely success story, Peta has also furthered our knowledge of koalas' food preferences. While in care, apart from occasional forest red gum leaves, she would eat nothing but Allosuarina torulosa, commonly known as forest she-oak.
Although on some lists as a supplementary or secondary food source, the value of this non-eucalypt species has largely been ignored. Until now, one small koala has highlighted the point that it might well be an invaluable link between the primarily preferred forest red gums of the coast, and the river red gums of the inland across the koalas' range.
- Patricia Edwards
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 22, 2016.