Bushfire koala Richardson Jane returns home

Richardson Jane at the koala hospital.It was seven months ago that the devastating bushfires hit the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Trudging through the ashen smoking ground I joined a line of volunteers from Native Animal Trust Fund, Hunter Koala and WINC on a ‘black walk’ of the fire-ground to search for wildlife survivors.

There were few to be found – the fire was so ferocious it left a trail of charred destruction in its wake. One of the lucky survivors was a koala nicknamed Richardson Jane, found by a WINC rescuer, climbing high in a tree on Richardson Road, swinging from the trees like Tarzan’s Jane.

RELATED: Bushfires in NSW -The long road to recovery continues

She didn’t want to come down and it took a long time to rescue her. She had severe burns to her paws and nose and was badly dehydrated. Rushed to local Noah’s ark vets she was treated for her burns and put on a drip to rehydrate her. IFAW assisted with her medical treatment and she then went to koala carer Sue Swain who gave her round the clock intensive care.

Jane then moved onto Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital where she spent the last few months recuperating in the five star facilities, being cared for by a dedicated team of volunteers. True to her name, she has spent ninety-nine percent of her time here high in the tree tops. She has made a remarkable recovery and now she is ready to go home.

Today I’m at the hospital with Hunter Koala volunteer Loreto Gray to take Jane back home. We ease her into a cage with some leaf and drape a towel over her so she feels secure. We then make the two hour journey back to her home in Port Stephens.

As we drive through the forest the tree trunks are still blackened from the fire but the tops are bursting with new green leaves. Loreto has found the perfect tree for her release – a huge old swamp mahogany with lots of branches for her to sit on and enough leaf to feed her for a few days.

As we open the basket she climbs out, sniffing the air in recognition before digging her claws into blackened bark and easing herself slowly up the huge tree trunk. She settles on a branch for a while, looking down at us.  Casting us a last goodbye glance, she continues her climb higher and higher into the tree tops. She has come home. 

--JS

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