A tiny, vulnerable koala joey’s life has been saved by the Werribee Open Range Zoo’s veterinary team, after it was found in a critical condition in the wild.
The miniature 400 gram joey, named Mini, was brought to the Zoo for urgent medical attention by a registered wildlife carer who had rescued Mini after her mother was killed by a dog.
On arrival at the zoo, six-month-old Mini’s condition was incredibly precarious. At this age, koala joeys are still entirely dependent on the support, warmth and safety of their mother’s pouch and milk to survive.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Veterinary Nurse Jessie Rice provided around-the-clock care for Mini using a substitute woollen pouch, regular milk supplement and browse feeds, along with the comfort of a humidicrib.
It wasn’t long before Ms Rice started to see Mini’s fighting spirit and personality shine.
“She’s been thriving and putting on weight and that’s the way that we want her to go,” Ms Rice said.
“She spent her days in a humidicrib, then came home with me at nighttime with a little hot pad under her. She told me when she wanted to be fed, whether that was 2am, 3am or 4am in the morning.”
“She was very active and really vocal at night time. I didn’t get much sleep but a vocal, active koala is what we want, so it’s all worth it.”
Mini has now returned to the wildlife carer and will be hand raised until she grows to 3-4 kilograms which will take around 12-18 months. During this time Werribee Open Range Zoo’s vets will continue to provide ongoing support and medical expertise as required. Mini will then be released back into the wild near where she was found in South-west Victoria.
The important role wildlife carers play has been recognised by the Victorian Government with $200,000 in grants now available to help support registered wildlife carers.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said another $30,000 will also be made available to key wildlife institutions and priority projects.
“Mini the Koala’s story is yet another example of the fabulous job Victoria’s wildlife carers are doing every day – we’re proud to support this important work and help to make sure it continues,” Minister D’Ambrosio said.
Koalas are classified as a vulnerable species, whose numbers have been greatly impacted by habitat destruction through deforestation, bushfires and severe drought. This year, thousands of koalas were lost in Australia’s bushfires.
People can still donate to Zoos Victoria’s Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, with proceeds going towards supporting wildlife impacted by the fires, species recovery, expanding veterinary facilities and ongoing education for bushfire prone communities.
While Werribee Open Range Zoo is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home.