Saturday, September 22, 2012

Kangaroo Relationships - Merrilyn Part 28

All joeys are beautiful creatures, but some steal your heart more than others.  Merrilyn had stolen my heart from the very beginning, and now Blossom was the second of the many joeys I had raised, that touched me just a little bit deeper. She had the same effect on Merrilyn.
From the first minute that their noses touched, Merrilyn became her guardian.  In Part 24 I talked about this developing relationship and it fascinated me as my observations of the wild kangaroos on my property was that they did not readily take to each other.

The only solid relationships were between mother and joey, and once the joey was out of the pouch and fully weaned there was no longer any physical contact unless it was a cuff with a paw if the joey ventured back too close to its mother.  If a joey was orphaned it either survived by itself or died.  Only once have I seen a wild mother take on a joey that was not its own, and all it allowed was the joey to stay reasonably close and that seemed enough to enable that joey to survive.

So why did Merrilyn feel the need to be so close to this new joey?  They had come from the same area so perhaps they shared a father and something was telling them there was a connection?  We'll never know, but it seemed wherever Blossom was, Merrilyn was in the background.
You may recall from Part 24 that Blossom had managed to injure her toe.  She spent a good of time in her pouch recovering and Merrilyn was generally on guard.
The other member of the Three Musketeers who also seemed besotted was the lovely Bonking Bob.  He too spent time on guard.
Those who read last week's post will be pleased to know that Bob was ever the gentleman with Blossom so no issues there.  Once the toe healed the two girls started to roam again.
Drought was a real problem and our frog pond was becoming a frog puddle!  The rocks in the background show where the water level should be.
The dam too was disappearing.  I was asked whether kangaroos can swim.  They certainly can, though they seemed to prefer to simply wade in and then out to cool off in the heat.  All the kangaroos, wild and released, were extremely grateful for both the frog pond and the dam during these hard times.  Times were good too as Blossom had recovered and continued to grow, and Merrilyn, Buster and Bob were living free and surviving.  I only hoped the good times would last and that rain would come.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bonking Bob - Merrilyn Part 27

Remember our third musketeer, Bob? Poor Bob was a problem child from the day he arrived, (Part 11), firstly rebuilding his health, and then his foot in mouth issues, (Part 14) and then being stung by bees, (Part 16), but you simply couldn't help loving him.  Bob was a character!

The three of them, Merrilyn, Buster and Bob, were always together.

That's Merrilyn on the left - never one to share..., Bob in the middle and lovely, gentle Buster on the right.  Though, as you know from Part 21, the joeys had now all been fully weaned from their bottles, at this point we were in the grip of a severe drought and so we offered them supplementary goat pellets to help them through.

As well as The Three Musketeers, they were also affectionately known as The Three Bums! Bob still in the middle and never as healthy looking as the other two.

Bob loved the water.  Here he is in our dam.  On hot days he loved to soak himself to cool off.
He also loved to lay on his back and well...have a scratch.... He and Buster were always together and then one day we spotted something quite extraordinary
We knew Buster was one of the sweetest, most gentle kangaroos we'd raised, but that he was putting up with this was quite something and what was Bob thinking??

Fortunately Bob wasn't actually making real contact, and we're not sure even lovely Buster would have put up with that!  All Buster did was stop eating his pellets and wait patiently for the urge to be worked out of Bob's system.

Despite Bob's very inappropriate advances to Buster, they remained firm friends and we are not sure what Buster whispered in Bob's ear but this occasion was the only one we caught sight of such behaviour and Bob moved on to bonking the patio furniture and anything else that stood still long enough!
So from that day on he was affectionately known as Bonking Bob!

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Q Fever & the lounge lizard. Merrilyn Part 26

I lost two weeks of my life and then struggled for several more weeks to regain my health.  Oh I recall some parts of it, but mostly I was in a dream. Totally delirious for several days and then struggling to be human for the rest of it.    Sadly it was down to George.  When I'd put my hands beneath the sheets to say goodbye, I'd been covered in his bodily fluids.  Though I'd immediately washed, it was too late.  I had been infected with Q Fever.

I'd heard of it, but had no idea that I might become infected.  It took several weeks to be properly diagnosed because, despite our suggestion that it might be Q Fever, two doctors refused to consider it and treated me for other things.  At last I was able to see my own doctor who trusted my judgement and ran the test and finally proper treatment was started. The delayed diagnosis meant a longer recovery time and higher risks.  It can be simply like a mild flu but the worst cases see liver and heart damage and some people have died.  Thankfully I made a complete recovery, though I felt weakened for quite some time.

People who take on wildlife care often have no idea of the dangers.  You certainly think of being bitten or scratched but not that you could gain a disease that can be extremely debilitating.  Would it have stopped me if I'd known more about it?  Probably not.  Though whenever I have an opportunity I ensure potential and existing carers know the dangers.  Immunisation is available and you cannot work as a vet or a worker in an abattoir without it here in Australia and anyone who has had it goes on the register of notifiable diseases.

Meanwhile the mob continued to flourish and Merrilyn learned a new trick.  Though free to go wherever she pleased, she continued to see our house as her domain, as well as the bush.  We had an old cane sofa out on the patio and we were totally amazed to look through the window and see this sight one day. Somehow Merrilyn had made her way onto the couch!

I took the first shot through the window as I thought she would get down and go when I went outside.  Not a bit of it.

She was comfortable and wasn't moving for anyone.  I was also a bit miffed to notice she had dropped a pellet (hmm maybe I should just call it what it is - poo) as she had got up.  You can see it bottom left sitting like a round ball of .... near the edge of the sofa.
I'd like to think she was looking a bit sheepish, but I rather think she was simply wondering what I was doing.  She had never been on furniture before, not even when she was a small joey.

Though we discouraged her by leaving various objects on the seats, Merrilyn mostly found her way around them.  For an animal with large back legs that are used for hopping, not climbing, she was amazingly agile. On one occasion she even made it onto a single chair, even though we'd left the beach umbrella across it.

17 months after arriving in our lives, it became very clear that even though she was totally free to go, this particular kangaroo quite liked the comforts of a human home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

George - Merrilyn Part 25

A warning.  You'll need tissues for this one.

George came into our lives on a sunny day.  He was a sad soul in the beginning,  probably due to his first few weeks in human care.  What happened to George's mother is not clear, but he had been picked up by a family who knew nothing about wildlife care.  I suspect he had been in care for quite some time and had probably just out worn his welcome.

He came to us lying flat in a cardboard box.   I was told by the lady who dropped him off that she thought that was far more comfortable than being bent up in a pouch.  I am gobsmacked that so many people think they know better than nature.  Anyone who has seen a joey in a pouch knows this is the way they were designed to be.  They don't lie flat on the ground until they leave their mother's pouch. I suspect George had been made to do this for quite some time and that had caused him to become quite subdued.

Clearly George was distressed and hungry.  He was 3kg in weight. He was also gorgeous!

He reminded me of Buster when he first arrived here and I hoped he'd settle in as well.  (Merrilyn Part 4 - Buster Arrives).  He did settle in and loved his pouch, took to the bottle well and soon his personality and love of life shone through.

He and Blossom became great pals.  (Merrilyn Part 23 - Blossom).
We had a number of joeys in care at the time, as you can see from the stands.  That's Blossom on the left and the smaller George on the right.  In this photo, both had heard something and were standing to attention checking it out.  Ready to flee if it was something dangerous.  Though they are standing in slightly different poses, I think you can see the differences between the female and the male, particularly the more powerful back legs.

Of course, as you've heard in Parts 23 and 24, where Blossom was found, Merrilyn was too, and so a new "three musketeers" developed.
Here's George having a scratch, with Blossom nearby and Merrilyn's familiar tail there too.
George on the left, Blossom in the middle. Merrilyn leading them around was a familiar sight for a couple of weeks and bought a big smile to my face as the now free and independent Merrilyn was teaching these new young joeys the ways of the wild.

I was pleased with George's growth, he was nearing 4kg, but one morning, when he hopped out to go to the toilet, he started to hiss.  I knew this meant pain.  He came back to me and seemed fine but I watched and waited and when he next went to empty his bladder his distress was clear.

I had heard of male kangaroos getting crystals in the bladder, but had never experienced it before.  There had been no warning signs such as the strong smell of urine and I'd seen no colour.  I rang a couple of carers and they suggested the vet was the best option.  Taking a joey to the vet is a traumatic experience for the joey, so isn't taken lightly.  I didn't feel I had a choice though as a total blockage could mean a burst bladder and death.

By this time I had a favoured vet for kangaroos.  I'm not going to name him, but he is an excellent vet.  Vets in Australia very often give of their time freely to help with wildlife rescues, but they have no formal training in wildlife care so they learn with you about what may or may not work.  The vet took a look and questioned me about the symptoms and decided that yes, crystals were probably the issue.  He tried to pop a tube through using just local anaesthetic, but it seemed things were almost totally blocked.  The only option to clear the problem was surgery.

Putting a joey through an operation is also not lightly done and I wondered if I should subject George to it.  I couldn't leave him in pain and at risk of death, so my only other alternative was to have him humanely euthanased.  The vet gave me some time alone to think.  As I stroked George's soft grey fur I knew I simply had to give him the chance to live.  Had it been a badly broken back leg I would have euthansed him without hesitation.  A male kangaroo with any kind of weakness is liable to suffer a horrible death, but George was young, this was internal, the vet assured me it was a simply operation and that he should recover quickly.

The vet was happy for me to be in the room as he operated and he explained what he was doing.  I really couldn't see George as he was covered in the light green sheets they use for operations, with only the section the vet was working on exposed.  Opening things up was easy but still the vet didn't seem able to clear the blockage.  Things were taking time and I was beginning to worry, especially when the vet stopped explaining what was happening.  He asked the nurse to bring him warm blankets as George was losing heat, but it was all too late.

He looked up at me with sad eyes and told me George was dead.

Whether it was the bladder blockage, or the time it was taking and George losing his body heat, I don't know what the cause was and I don't think the vet did either.  What had caused the blockage?  What had the original carers fed him?  Had it been quite weak and the proper animal milk been too rich?  It was pointless speculating.

Something in me had to touch George and so I put my hands under the green sheets to stroke his body and say goodbye.  I accidentally put my hands where some of his bodily fluid had leaked out and reluctantly withdrew them as I knew I should wash them straight away.  The vet gently wrapped him in a blanket and offered to look after the body.  I thanked him but said I'd take him home.

I cried the whole way.  Holding and stroking the blanketed body.  Merrilyn and Blossom were not far away and came over to greet us.  They must have missed  George, but the blanket seemed so foreign and they didn't know what to make of it.  Merrilyn reared back and hopped away.  We buried George under a tree that he had taken to lying under for the past week and I cannot pass the spot without whispering hello.

Rest in peace George.  Your life was short, but you are not forgotten.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Relationship Grows - Merrilyn Part 24

I promised more of Merrilyn and Blossom and here you are.

The two girls, possibly related as both came from the same area, seemed drawn to each other from the beginning.
Merrilyn had been raised with Buster and Bob, but had always been an independent miss and the boys were far more often seen together and Merrilyn out on her own.  She was also feisty with any kangaroo who invaded her space, but not so with Blossom.
In fact Merrilyn took to being Blossom's guardian.  Though she was no longer relying on a bottle from me and was free to move away, we saw her even more and when Blossom was outside you could guarantee Merrilyn would be there too.
The weeks went by and nothing changed and this is one of my favourite photos and one of Merrilyn's favourite places to be.  It was as if she felt Blossom was her own joey, though she was not yet old enough to be a Mom herself.

Even when Blossom was old enough to be venturing out on her own, Merrilyn was always there in the back ground.  Mind you she didn't keep her out of trouble.  One day Blossom somehow managed to get her back toe caught in a crack in the concrete.  She simply wrenched it out - leaving the nail behind and you may wish to skip the next shot, which shows you the damage.
You can see the nail on the other foot so you know what she has pulled off.  Kangaroos rarely make any sounds, but I was alerted to the problem by a lot of hissing.  Poor Blossom.  She was hopping and hissing.  She was learning to be out of the pouch for longer periods so her pouch was not nearby.  I grabbed it and held it open and in she hopped and with the weight off it the hissing stopped.  I talked with the vet on the phone and we agreed that it should be kept clean and dry and nature would sort it out, and it did.  Though I was often at the vet, it is an incredibly traumatic thing for a joey to be taken to a vet and can cause more problems than it fixes, so anything that could be fixed here was fixed here.

The toe healed and Blossom grew more gorgeous as each day went by.  Here she is at 4kg and in the middle of winter - hence the fluffiness of her coat.

It wasn't just Merrilyn who was becoming very attached to Blossom.  I was too.  I was now the Macropod Coordinator for my area so spent quite a lot of time stabilising joeys and handing them on to other carers, or, sadly, having them euthanased when they clearly were not going to make it.  I had always said Merrilyn was special and no other joey would touch me as she had, but somehow Blossom was wriggling through my practical defences...

Finally a note for those who have been searching for my Macropod (Kangaroo and Wallaby) Care Manual.  Apologies as it did disappear for a while, but here the link to it if you need to down load it.  Macropology.  Until next time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blossom - Merrilyn Part 23

With the three musketeers successfully released and growing well, it was time to turn to smaller joeys who needed help.  One eastern grey joey we knew would come into care shortly had been dubbed "Blossom" by the lady who called to alert us there was a problem.  Blossom's mother had been chased by dogs and injured whilst trying to clear a fence.  The injury was significant, but not enough to enable us to get near to her for treatment.

Though we all know tranquiliser guns exist, the reality is very few vets have them, they are expensive to use, and anyway no one is interested in using one on an adult kangaroo that clearly was going to have to be put down in the long term.  (Wild adults do not take well to vet care and usually do not survive.)  Though there was obviously a joey in the pouch, the "bump" still seemed quite small.  Maybe too small for long term survival.  As the mother was still able to feed and move about, the decision was taken to let her live on, under observation and protection from dogs, to allow the joey to grow some more and in the hope nature might do some healing.

The healing didn't happen and after a couple of weeks it was obvious the mother was weakening and that it was unfair to leave her in what must be some pain.  Stephen was a shooter for our wildlife care group and so the day arrived to do what had to be done.  We both hated it, but it was the most humane option available.  By this stage the mother could be approached quite closely and I braced for the bang that would make me jump even though I knew it was coming.  I can still hear that particular shot, even though I had heard plenty before and more since.

I quickly went to the pouch and here is what I found, a beautiful female joey - Blossom.
This photo was taken once she was stabilised and feeling a bit more comfortable in our care and she was a little over 1kg and starting to fur up. She so reminded me of Merrilyn when she was the same age and I knew this would be another special bond.

  She had many of the same personality traits of Merrilyn, including her love of a bottle.
I wondered if she and Merrilyn might be related.  They came from the same mob of kangaroos.  It was certainly a possibility that the mother of Blossom could have been a sister to Merrilyn's mother or even perhaps an older sibling of Merrilyn's.  I felt they had very similar looks.  The next photo is of Merrilyn drinking at about the same age - what do you think?
Merrilyn was also fascinated by Blossom.  Whenever I put Blossom outside Merrilyn would appear and try to be as close as she could.  Previously Merrilyn was quite aloof when it came to other joeys.  Though she would hang with her two "Brothers", she hadn't wished close contact and had ignored other joeys in care, but Blossom was different.  This again suggested some kind of blood relationship.
Here Merrilyn is nose to nose with Blossom in her pouch.  Mind you when it came to some things, good old Bob also found interest.

Here both Bob (on the right) and Merrilyn helped themselves to the grass I had pulled for Blossom to chew on.  At this point Blossom was not leaving the pouch. Next time you can see how the relationship developed between Merrilyn and Blossom as Blossom grew.  It was to be both a heart warming, and heart breaking relationship.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy and Free - Merrilyn Part 22 and Post 100

There's nothing as heart warming as an eastern grey kangaroo rolling in the grass,  clearly happy with life!

Those who follow this blog will recall that in Part 22, Merrilyn, Buster and Bob had their last bottle of milk.  Now over eighteen months old it was time for them to be fully weaned and to stand on their own two feet.  For me it was an incredibly nervous time.  Would they survive?  They arrived every morning, all three together, my three musketeers, hoping for a bottle but happy just to have the security of being near to the people who had been their parents for so long.

This particular morning, Merrilyn was particularly happy and rolled around on the ground, whilst Buster watched on.

Clearly she was relaxed and happy with her lot in life.

She looked healthy, and all of them had done well to survive this long as roughly 75% of joeys don't make it to 12 months of age.
My heart ached and I would love to have thrown myself on the ground and put my arms around her. Merrilyn is certainly the nearest I have come to having my own child.  Having raised her from just a tiny, very ill, fur less joey, letting go was pulling my heart to pieces, but seeing her so happy made it just that bit easier to let go.

Though I'd taken away any comfort, Merrilyn still moved to the patio and placed herself on her human Dad's thongs!  Clearly she still felt she belonged here - or was it that she owned the place?

This was a time of peace and joy.  The three joeys visiting during the day.  They would lay around the house, grazing, rolling and sleeping, and then in the late afternoon heading off into the bush.  Every time they headed off I said out loud "Stay safe, we love you." I wondered how long it would be before one or other did not return.

If you'd like to catch up on Merrilyn's story to date you can read all the parts here.

Oh and at last I've reached blog post 100!  When I started this blog in 2010, I had no idea what warm friends it would bring to me.  Thank you for your patience as my life takes turns that sees me neglecting this blog.  It may take a while, but I'll fill you in on Merrilyn's journey - it has some amazing turns!  Thanks for joining me and "see" you again soon.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fancy a Date with a Devil?

Not long ago my phone rang. It was related to wildlife care.  That's not unusual.  As regular readers know I have several years experience in wildlife care and have written a macropod (kangaroo and wallaby) care manual called Macropology. However this call was different.  This wasn't the usual "I have a kangaroo with xyz symptoms, what do you think?" call.  This was a man with a vision and a passion I haven't heard in quite some time.

Greg Irons is the very proud custodian, (owner doesn't seem quite right), of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.  Bonorong is in Tasmania, Australia and the animals there are either being rehabilitated to be returned to the wild, are part of a breeding program or, due to being unfit for release due to permanent injury, are living out their years in this beautiful place.  You'll find kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats and all manner of creatures Australian, including the fascinating Tasmanian Devil.  The photo shows Dougie and PeeWee, two orphaned devils being raised at Bonorong - thanks to Mike Calder for this wonderful photo.

Greg not only runs Bonorong, he trains wildlife carers and rescuers and has created the first wildlife rescue service in Tasmania.  He now teaches Animal Studies Certificate II for the Tasmanian Polytechnic and that was the reason for his call.  He wants to integrate some of Macropology into his training and I readily agreed.  It always makes my heart sing that there are people like Greg and his staff and volunteers out there working hard to ensure creatures other than we humans have a space in this world.  Greg's story will make a book one day.  He first visited Bonorong as a seven year old and declared to his mother "One day I will own this place."  How many seven year old's actually grow up to fulfil their dreams? Greg is one of those unique people - someone who actually does what he says he will do.

The Tasmanian Devil is in trouble.  It is being afflicted by a highly contagious facial tumour and may become extinct.  This site, Save The Tasmanian Devil offers detailed information.  Our discussion about the devil lead to The Tarkine, where devils, free of the tumours have been sighted.

I mentioned my wish to one day visit The Tarkine, to perhaps even be married there, at the bottom of one of the magnificent trees. (Yes there's a story...I'm engaged!).   The Tarkine is an awe inspiring, world heritage value wilderness in north west Tasmania.  The Tarkine National Coalition is working hard to save the forest and you can see further photographs and learn more there. (Don't miss Tom Mead's absolutely gorgeous photo of the Arthur River Rainforest).

This shot of The Tarkine is Greg's - thanks again Greg.

You might also like to check out this video to see what is happening and to lend your voice to save The Tarkine. Don't Mine The Tarkine Campaign.

So please.  Sign-up to help save The Tarkine and the Tasmanian Devil and come and visit Bonorong and see the wonderful work of Greg and his team.

And yes, I'm getting back to this blog.  I've been away for a while, but there is much still to tell about Merrilyn and the gang.

We had reached part 21 - Last Call for Bottles if you'd like to refresh your memory, or maybe start from the beginning if you are new here - Merrilyn's Story and I may just keep you informed of the wedding plans and whether we do make it to the bottom of a Tarkine tree for our special day.  Until next time...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's been a while

Yes I have been absent.  So many reasons and too many to tell here but rest assured I'll be back to complete Merrilyn's story, which has many chapters to write yet.

In the meantime, what are you doing for Earth Hour this year?

At 8.30pm on Saturday March 31st, people across the globe will turn out the lights and consider what they can do to save this wonderful planet we live on and ensure a future place for both humans and the rest of the animals we share it with.

Watch this inspiring video and be part of it.

Earth Hour 2012