Losing his mother in a dog attack last December, tiny koala joey, Willy, faced an uncertain future. Now thanks to the care of University of Sydney Veterinarian, Dr Bree Talbot, Willy is getting ready to be released back into the bush.
‘Learning to be a koala’ is how Dr Talbot describes Willy’s current treatment priority. It’s been quite a journey getting this far. When Willy’s mother was killed, he weighed just 480 grams and was vulnerable to all manner predators, infections and one disease in particular.
“Many orphaned koala joeys die from a disease called typhocolitis,” says Dr Talbot. “It’s a bacterial infection affecting the colon, that infant koalas are especially susceptible to.”
Luckily, Willy was taken to University of Sydney’s Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital at Camden, where he was given preventive antibiotics and probiotics to stop the condition from developing. After that, the challenge became preparing the tiny joey for his eventual return to the wild. That’s the stage he’s at now.
Willy was partnered with another juvenile male koala, Hunter. The two have been placed in a large, protected aviary where they will learn how to be koalas, including identifying and eating native plants, and how they can live without relying on humans.
The Camden pet hospital, where Dr Talbot works and where Willy is under care, is recognised for its exceptional work with wildlife. It is often called upon by rescue organisations like Wires and the Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Service to perform anything from monitoring a growing wombat to emergency surgery on an injured owl.
“Too often, the wildlife is brought in to us because of something related to human activity,” she says. “Whether it’s an eastern long neck turtle that has been hit by a car, or blue tongue lizard that’s been attacked by a dog.”
Students on placement at the Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital gain confidence in caring for domestic and non-domestic animals.
“Our students have loved every one of Willy’s visits over the past 8 months, as we’ve monitored his growth. He’s such a gorgeous boy. It’s also wonderful that we are now in the final stages before his release back into the wild.”
While Willy is expected to be officially released at the end of the year, Dr Talbot hopes Willy’s story will encourage people to give towards treating sick and injured wildlife.
‘It’s really heartening that people bring injured wildlife to us,” she says. “But it’s also difficult because all of our wildlife work is 100% reliant on donor funding.”
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