News / Community / 11th June 2020
Home among the gum trees: koalas released
Farewells are never easy, but when you spend up to four hours a day hunting for fresh tip leaves to feed hungry koalas, it is inevitable to become motivated for a goodbye.
For licenced wildlife carer, Sue Brookhouse, the past six months has been a whirlwind, helping to rehabilitate a number of koalas affected by summer’s scorching temperatures.
As reported in the Coonabarabran Times in January this year, no rainfall and ongoing heat-wave conditions had resulted in koalas physically falling from trees due to dehydration and starvation.
As well as hand feeding koalas back to health, Sue spent up to four hours a day collecting garbage bins full of fresh tip leaves to feed her hairy brood.
When local leaf quality became too poor, Sue had to outsource the koalas to the Koala Hospital at Port Macquarie.
Sue said the koalas had received treatment and had gained two to three kilograms.
“Miss Piggy, because she loves to eat, put on weight fast. No surprises there,” Sue laughed.
After returning to Coonabarabran when conditions improved, the koalas embarked on the next stage of their recovery in outside enclosures.
Although female koalas are able to share a pen, male species require their own space.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has been working with Sue to provide support for her incredible rehabilitation work.
Last year, funding from the NSW Koala strategy enabled her to purchase specialised koala rescue equipment and this year Sue was awarded funding to create a second koala enclosure and large aviary, both constructed by local builders.
The large enclosures are fully fenced to keep the koalas in, as well as keeping other wildlife, animals and pests out.
Koalas are able to undertake climbing exercise on a smaller playgym, before a branch is placed above the tree guard to allow them to further test their skills.
A gunyah also provides a reprieve from the heat, cold and wet weather.
Sue said it was important to give the koalas the best chance for release.
“We like to wait until the koalas are the right weight and are healthy,” she said.
“But usually two weeks of climbing and they are right to go.”
Having identified the perfect release location near Bilby Blooms, south of Coonabarabran, both Miss Piggy and her best mate, Junior, have successfully been re-released.
“We like to release the koalas as close as possible to where they were found and we found an ideal habitat that is within the gene pool.
“Bilby Blooms has a number of koalas in the area, suitable trees, permanent water and someone to keep an eye on them.
“The koalas have been tagged and will undergo monitoring to see how they are going.”
After placing the enclosure, Sue said she watched as both girls climbed to the top of the tree.
“They were jumping from branch to branch and then perched on a very thin one and started eating leaves.
“They looked happy.”
The corfulte enclosure was removed several days after the release when the koalas were able to gauge their surroundings.
“I’m not sad to say goodbye to the koalas,” Sue said.
“I’ll have a bit more time on my hands now I’m not collecting leaves all day.
“What I am pleased with is that after 40 years have the set-up that I want and need to do the job.”
To follow Sue’s journey, visit Warrumbungle Koalas on Facebook.