Darwin the baby koala, who was placed into a wildlife shelter in Rawson, 20 kilometers east of Melbourne, is looking for a friend. The joey became orphaned after foresters fall a nearby tree without noticing the joey and his mother inside.
They hurried the 250 gram joey to Colleen Wood, a koala expert who has been caring for him round-the-clock for the past two months.
According to Wood from the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter, “Koalas are actually highly maternal and the mothers will frequently manage to fall in a way that protects their infants above themselves.” This is how, in our opinion, young Darwin survived.
After adopting a particular “every four hour” feeding schedule, Darwin, who is now five months old, has almost doubled in weight. Wood claims that he and his friend George the teddy bear are inseparable, but she wants to locate a real-life friend to assist joey learn how to live independently.
People will often stare at this teddy bear and at me curiously when they see me feeding, she recalls, “until I tell them: “No, there’s a genuine Koala under there, behind George!”
Before being released back into the wild to fend for himself, Darwin will spend another 10 months or so under close observation at the wildlife sanctuary. He and other koalas will be tagged by Collen Wood and volunteers at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter so they may be followed in their natural habitat.
We keep track of them over time, and there isn’t anything more satisfying than seeing a female you’ve nursed since she was a joey giving birth to her own young in the bush.
Wood estimates that roughly 78% of injured or orphaned koalas released will survive.
We always try to release them close to where they came from because that is where they will go when they need something, but occasionally this can be an issue, she adds. Some koalas have returned to places destroyed by bushfires, but others have perished after falling from weak branches that suddenly crack. Cows are a concern; they despise koalas and will rally the herd to trample them, and we have the horrifying chlamydia disease, which they contract from other animals like cattle.
The biggest dangers to koala populations in Australia, according to Wood, who started caring for injured wildlife 19 years ago, are growing habitat degradation, fires, and the drier landscape brought on by climate change.
“This is a significant worry, and we really don’t know enough about koalas in Victoria,” she says. “More research is needed.”
This year’s early onset of joey season has Wood anticipating a large influx of newborns due to traffic collisions, dog attacks, incidents involving falling trees, and bushfires. According to her, the center received more than 200 newborn koalas last year, and the numbers are rising.
However, Darwin will continue to take pleasure in his warm, padded tree fork stand that is set at his mother’s pouch temperature for the time being. And to help him socialize, he’ll probably be matched with another adult female.
He is quite fortunate, says Woods. ‘He’ll be OK,’