Mimi, who when rescued in November 2020 had her left eye removed, was ready this month to start the next stage of her rehabilitation journey. It is always a concern when we release koalas back to the wild as to how they will go, but in Mimi’s case we were all the more cautious. When a koala loses an eye, it loses perspective, depth, peripheral vision, and after spending 5 months in care, Mimi had also lost muscle mass, reducing her overall strength.
In order to prepare her for release and increase her strength, Mimi was transferred to a soft release enclosure, a fenced area which included two trees of her favourite food species, Swamp Mahogany, and Silky Oak. On arrival she climbed the tree with delight and spent the first day checking out life from her high vantage point. But it soon began clear she understood her limitations. Rather than leaping between branches, she would reach out for leaf and when unable to reach, she would climb down until she could safely change branches.
Over a week and a half, I monitored Mimi closely and she passed every test. She climbed well, developed perspective of where branches and leaves were, moved between trees and around the enclosure and responded well to disturbance. In addition to these critical abilities, Mimi showed she was able to manage her environment – climbing to the place which caught the last bit of sun of the day (to keep her warm overnight), moving to the most protected place from the prevailing wind, to avoid getting drenched in the rain, and laying back or tree-hugging to cool herself. Mimi was ready for the wild!
After containing her, Mimi was transported and released back home. She looked back once, as if to say ‘thank you’, before climbing up high. We wish her all the best and look forward to receiving sightings from the local community who love her.