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The wild story of Wendy the Koala

Wendy the Koala

One of the most time-consuming roles within koala care is the art of hand-raising a baby koala, known as a joey.

Most joeys are in home care for months at a time. In home care, joeys need regular 24/7 care, with the youngest feeding every two hours – just like a newborn! Our volunteer koala carers also make sure the joeys have fresh leaf, administer medications and most importantly, provide support to the joey without allowing it to humanize (rely on human intervention).

It is quite a mission to support a joey through their journey from rescue to release, however it is incredibly rewarding and cause for much celebration at Friends of the Koala. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as we would like it to. Most joeys have complications that no amount of care or medicine can remedy. Despite the odds, we put all we can into rehabilitating every joey in the hope that they will not only be released but also prosper in the wild.

The average life expectancy of koalas that come into care is seven to eight years for males even less for females and so twenty years is well beyond the norm.
Wendy when she was in care at Friends of the Koala

Going back some years – to 2005, a ten-month-old female joey was rescued from the grounds of the Southern Cross University after being hit by a car. Rescuing legend, Rick Vass collected her carefully and immediately took her to be assessed by a wildlife veterinarian. It seemed her injuries were superficial, and she was placed in home care. She was named Wendy.

Wendy was lucky enough to have the very best of joey carers, Barb Dobner. Barb has inspired many and drove the high bar of care quality that we have today at Friends of the Koala. Barb doesn’t recall much about Wendy (one of the hundreds of joeys she cared for over the years), but was, as all carers are about any koalas we release, curious about her life in the wild. Last week, we were able to let her know.

A call for a rescue out at Georgica came in reporting a small koala on the ground, very thin and unresponsive. The land owner Darryl and is wife had been watching this female for more than a decade so were distressed at her state. Our rescuers Paul and Nicci transferred her to a cage without any resistance and quickly took her to our after hours vet partner, North Coast Emergency Vets. She was euthanised due to her body condition and poor prognosis, but her history made for one of the most exciting stories we had heard for a very long time.

Rescuing and rehabilitating an orphan koala is time and cost intensive but SO worth it.
Wendy in our Koala Care Centre as a joey with her mates

It was Wendy. Wendy who had been rescued nineteen years earlier – making her twenty years old! Any koala living to that ripe old age is really rare, but a breeding female who was rescued as a joey and hand raised? Unheard of and completely miraculous.

The average life expectancy of koalas that come into care is seven to eight years for males even less for females and so twenty years is well beyond the norm. During her life in the wild, Wendy had numerous joeys herself, (as was witnessed by the landowners), and she was completely Chlamydia free.

The site where Wendy was released to her forever home is an area of pristine bushland, where interactions with humans or domestic animals would have been minimal. Wendy’s survival to advanced years, shows us that longevity is possible in the right environment and that the time and energy put into raising a joey is worth every bit of the cost, the grey hairs and the lack of sleep.

Very young joeys in care need to be fed every two hours.
Wendy when she was released into the wild many years ago.

The joy and excitement from Wendy’s story has energized our volunteers. Their spirits have been boosted knowing that there are success stories out there that we don’t always know about.

Thank you to Rick, Barb and Ray (of Keen Street Vets) who helped Wendy find her way back into the bush to live out a full life. Her legacy lives on in the joeys that she raised herself who will have now gone onto have babies of their own.

Photos of Wendy as a young koala have kindly been provided by Barb Dobner.

Without your ongoing support, we would not be telling Wendy’s story, we thank you so much for continuing to care.

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