Over 50 bushfires have been burning for the past three weeks along thecoast from Sydney tothe north of Noosa in Queensland.The news has been consistently stark and depressing to read and watch. People have lost their lives, homes, livelihoods. The devestation to the wildlife population is extreme and especially impacting the Koala habitat around Port Macquqrie.
So here’s a good news story about the resilience of our fauna and the wonderful humans of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital who care for them
Koala and joey rescued from the Queensland bushfires to be released into the wild
A koala mother and her joey who shot to fame when they were found huddled together amongst the ashes of the Canungra bushfires are doing so well they will be released back into the wild.
Seasoned mother Ainslee took such good care of Rupert during the September fire, south of Brisbane, that he emerged from the disaster with just smoke inhalation.
Ainslee, however, had burnt paws and all of her hair was singed.
“She’s a good mum, she always had her hand on him, her arm around him,” carer Sam Longman said of the pair when they first arrived at her property.
“She would constantly cuddle him.
“If he gets himself into a pickle and starts to yip, which is the koala equivalent of crying, she becomes quite alert and responsive.”
When Ms Longman got Ainslee, after a few weeks in the RSPCA hospital, her health was rated at just three out of 10.
The nine-year-old is given daily supplements and multivitamins and is fed the finest of gum leaves to regain health.
Her paws have healed beautifully and her fur is slowly regrowing.
Rupert, 12 months, has recovered to the point that he is the larrikin in the pen, at times annoying his mother.
“He’s well adjusted and then some,” Ms Longman said.
“He’s a little galavant, his personality is just out there. He gets around, so naughty.
“He’s starting to play, biting his mum’s face, legs, arms, knees and she is starting to growl at him more and he’s getting in trouble.
“But she’s doing really well with him, I’m really impressed — from what she’s been through to where she is now.”
Two mothers suckle Rupert back to health
Ainslee and Rupert share a pen with 10-year-old Eve and her joey daughter Ella, who were also rescued from the Canungra fire.
They all came into Ms Longman’s care on the same day.
While Ella is making a full recovery, Eve has osteoporosis arthritis in her hips and is unlikely to make it in the wild.
It does not stop her from letting Rupert suckle on her. She has taken Rupert under her wing.
“Rupert is just a chunk machine, he’s just a chunky little button,” Ms Longman said.
At one point Ms Longman thought Rupert may never have made it into the wild, but with the help of Eve, both mothers nursed him back to health.
Ella is not jealous and the two joeys have formed a unique bond amid their adversity.
They wrestle and play amongst the tree forks.
“Rupert bounces around, gives Ella a run for her money, she’ll be eating and he will bite her on the elbow,” Ms Longman said.
“He’s a ratbag, whereas Ella is quiet conservative, a little princess whereas he’s just out there.
“It’s so beautiful to see them with their mums because I’m usually on the orphan side of things.”
While Ainslee and Rupert cuddle to sleep some nights, the 12-month-old is starting to spend nights away from his mother in another branch, but if he gets a fright Ms Longman said “he goes running back and jumps on her”.
Ms Longman wants to wait a couple of months to release the pair so Rupert is more independent and can make it on his own in the wild.
Joeys usually break free of their mothers at 18 months.
Ms Longman has mixed feelings about their release.
The law requires koalas to be returned to within 5 kilometres from where they were rescued.
Ms Longman said it is so dry there, and the quality of leaf will be poor, which could put them under strain.
“I think it’s fantastic they will be released but scary at the same time,” she said.
“Where they came from, there’s nothing left.”
To prepare for their release Ms Longman started weeing Ainslee off her supplements but her health plummeted.
“She needs a bit more time,” she said.