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Pebbles: An Obituary To A Koala

In Loving Memory of Pebbles

Pebbles the female koala was euthanised on the 20th September 2019 due to complications from clamydial infection. She was estimated to be around 8 years of age at her passing.

Pebbles will be remembered by Heidi and I who went out numerous times to a property in Clagiraba to capture her and by Deborah, the lovely lady who’s property Pebbles frequented.

Ripple Effect

Pebbles has left ripples like a pebble thrown into a still pond to those who came in contact with her.

My lasting image of Pebbles was watching her after we had brought her home, thirstily drink water from a dish of water that Heidi was holding. She suspended her fear due to thirst and dehydration to greedily lap up water.

Urgent Need Of Medical Attention

Heidi had set up a humane koala trap at the base of the tree that she was in. The hope was that she would come down the tree and set off the trap.

Unfortunately she stayed put for 2 days and with the hot dry conditions we have been experiencing the eucalypt tree she was in offered little reprieve from the drying rays of the sun.

Dehydrated, this poor girl who was already suffering from illness was not in a good way.

Gold Coast koalas
Pebbles, you won’t be forgotten.

Facebook Post

Pebbles came to our notice when Deborah, the property owner in which Pebbles frequented, posted on Facebook a picture of a koala in a eucalypt tree on her property. Heidi spotted the post and immediately realised from the photos that the koala had classic signs of clamydia.

Immediately Heidi private messaged the property owner and we headed out to see if there was a chance we could capture the koala so that she could receive urgent medical treatment.

Once Pebbles had been captured, we had her overnight before Heidi transported her down to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for a full medical check up. Unfortunately due to the clamydial infection that had left her with painful cysts and which is incurable there was little the vets could do.

Mixed Emotions

In these circumstances as volunteer wildlife rescuers we often go through many mixed emotions. In this case it was no different.

Had we not captured her how much longer would Pebbles have survived? But this feeling of guilt associated for being responsible for stopping her life short was tempered by the knowledge that had we not captured her then she would have endured a slow painful death.

Gold Coast koalas
The koala trap set up to capture Pebbles. If you look carefully you can see Pebbles high up in the eucalypt tree.

Shared Connection and Loss

Another strong emotion we experienced was a deep sense of sadness and loss.

In the little time that we have koalas in our care we have a chance to see them as individuals just like you and I. In these vulnerable moments bonding with these gentle creatures often occurs.

For me, seeing Pebbles drinking water from a dish Heidi held while we gently and soothingly stroked her was a special moment we shared.

Difficult Times For SEQ Koalas

Pebbles had a red tag in her right ear which indicated that she had been brought in to observation or care in the past. Pebbles’ history was one that was increasingly symptomatic of koalas in South East Queensland.

The details of her life is sensitive information. Let’s just say that she has had a very tough life living in SEQ for such a gentle creature.

Sadly, Pebbles’ story is not unique. Koalas are under increasing pressure as their habitat is being rapidly destroyed and fragmented with residential and infrastructural development.

Coomeratorium

Just in the past few years we have seen huge swathes of koala habitat destroyed from residential development at Coomera. This kind of unsustainable ‘development’ is totally unsympathetic to the wildlife that lives there.

I don’t understand how environmental impact assessments can be done and still allow for every tree on a parcel of land to be felled leaving nothing but bare earth?

It beggars belief that this kind of environmental vandalism can happen. Coomera has become a grave yard to our wildlife that once called this area home.

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure development such as the Gold Coast Light Rail and the Smith Street on and off ramps saw the destruction of prime koala habitat in Parkwood and Arundel and who’s affects we are still seeing as we have regular call outs here for displaced koalas.

The 22 hectare Colgate-Palmolive site in Parkwood was almost completely cleared last year for light industry. There were quite a number koalas living here and we know as we were called out many times last year along Olsen Avenue (a few hundred metres away) to rescue many koalas wandering along this busy thoroughfare.

The area of Parkwood and Arundel continues to lose valuable koala habitat as more and more developments are approved.

Nail In The Coffin

As koalas on the Gold Coast continue to be squeezed into smaller and smaller disconnected parcels of land we will see them become extinct in areas of the northern Gold Coast.

The proposed Coomera Connector, a state controlled north-south corridor Between Loganholme and Nerang, east of the Pacific Highway may be the nail in the coffin to koalas in these areas.

Gold Coast koalas
Unless land clearing laws are changed very soon we risk koalas in the northern Gold Coast going extinct within the next few years.

State & Federal Land Clearing Laws

Local Councils are hamstrung in preventing land clearing of koala habitat unless the State and Federal legislation is changed. If this doesn’t happen some time very soon we may well see the functional extinction of koalas in the Helensvale, Parkwood and Arundel areas within the next 3 – 5 years.

Ripples

Pebbles through the difficulties she experienced in her life affected the lives of those she came into contact with. We were very grateful to get to know her, if only briefly, and through her she has touched our hearts and that of others.

Deborah, the property owner whom the land that Pebbles frequented, wrote some touching words on the Clagiraba Community Group Facebook page about the dedication and work Heidi does as a wildlife volunteer (and me my helper whenever I can) which I wanted to share with you:

I’m sure we have many amazing people within this group and hopefully over time we will get to know each other as neighbours, but today I would like to thank Heidi Cuschieri who is a local Wildcare volunteer. Heidi has been flat out since the bushfires and has had little sleep as she is available 24/7 on top of her regular paid work. I have had a female Koala, Pebbles visiting my place regularly of late. She had a bad habit of going into a tree in my dog’s yard and she was very sick so needed to go to hospital. Heidi and David tried catching her but she was too clever for them so Heidi set up a koala trap around the base of a tree No mean feat single handed. The wind got to it so Heidi and David had to come back again and reset it up. Pebbles resisted coming down and the trap was checked regularly night and day but she finally came down. A lot of time was invested throughout this process. I had become very attached to this girl and it was with quite a few tears this morning that I read Heidi’s message telling me that she had gone to Koala heaven. Through this process Heidi has insisted that I phone her at any time of the day or night as she frequently get calls in the middle of the night to rescue koalas. I saw how much love and passion Heidi has for our wild life and I am grateful she is part of our Facebook family. To Heidi and David a big thank you

Below is Heidi’s response to her Facebook post:

Awww Deborah your beautiful girl touched our hearts so much 💖 I am so sorry for the sad news 😔 she was such a special girl. Feel assured she was given lots of tlc and given lots yummy gum leaves 🌿🌿🌿

Our dear koalas are really battling this horrible disease chlamydia. Please don’t ever hesitate to contact Wildcare Australia Inc. or PM me direct if you have a koala on your property you’re not sure about. The signs to look for are red/crusty looking eyes and wet/dark coloured bottom. The sooner the disease is identified the better the success of treatment.

Rest easy little Pebbles you will be missed so much 🐨💖

Gold Coast koalas
Rest In Peace little Pebbles…

Starfish

Some days Heidi and I both wonder what are we doing when the situation of koalas in SEQ seems overwhelming and downright depressing. The recent dry conditions has exacerbated the issue with koala call outs almost every day over the past 2 months bringing it to crisis proportions. Unless things change dramatically it may seem that helping koalas is like rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

Yet we are reminded often of the story of the little girl who after a storm where thousands of starfish were washed upon the shore was asked by an old man why she was picking up individual starfish when it seemed so pointless. After all she couldn’t save them all and what difference could her small actions make?

The girl answered as she picked up and threw another starfish into the sea, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and he began to join her throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

The way we see it is that every individual koala that we can help save may just inspire enough people to get involved and the ripple affect may just help turn the tide on the clearing of koala habitat before its too late.

All photos (except for the koala trap photo) by Deborah Flesser who’s property Pebbles frequented.


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