Harry the koala caught under tree, succumbs to injuries

Harry the koala, a Ballina koala whom we’ve known of for almost a year, most likely fell with the tree in a recent storm.IFAW is proud to have partnered with Friends of the Koala to support them in their campaign to Save Ballina’s Koalas at risk from the Section 10, Pacific Highway upgrade. While we await the Roads Maritime Services (RMS) publication of their Ballina Koala Plan, Mother Nature has reminded us, in the most heartbreaking way, that these koalas face enough natural threats, without the addition of avoidable human ones. Lorraine Vass, President of Friends of the Koala, explains more. --RTJ

Recent summer storms have left parts of the Northern Rivers looking like a war zone – trees down, fences askew, cane flattened, rooves lifted and debris-strewn yards and roads.

Wildlife is often the forgotten collateral damage.

Last Friday’s storm was a case in point. It tore through the area home to Ballina’s koala population during the late afternoon leaving a swath of destruction. We don’t know how many food trees came down. We do know that a juvenile koala was trapped under one for perhaps 24 hours before he was noticed.

Harry was found on a property on Old Bagotville Road south of Ballina. He was pinned by his left arm and with his right he frantically scratched the trunk around his head trying to escape. In all likelihood Harry fell with the tree. He survived, only to find that he could not move and he stayed that way for a terrifyingly long time.

The people who eventually found him quickly recruited neighbour and koala rescuer, Maria Matthes. While the tree was being jacked up off Harry’s arm, Maria was ringing Friends of the Koala to organise his admission to the Koala Care Centre, where the care co-ordinator was waiting for him. She immediately administered pain relief and set off for the 24-hour Animal Emergency Centre at Carrara on the Gold Coast.

Harry had suffered abdominal trauma as well as a broken left arm. Because he was trapped for so long some of his arm tissue had already deteriorated.

Unfortunately Harry died Sunday morning. We will have to wait for the necropsy results to learn more.

Harry was a very special little koala. Maria first met him when he was in his mother’s pouch in February 2015. She was working in the Biolink team engaged by Roads & Maritime Services to gather more information on local koala demographics and genetics in the important koala area of Section 10 of the Highway Upgrade.

Harry’s mum was named Little Suzie. It had been raining when she was caught and she was nice and dry and comfortable in the bag, not wanting to leave. She sat on Maria's leg for a long time sleeping. She woke listening to Maria talking to her and singing "Wake up Little Suzie, wake up Little Suzie, it's time to go home.”

Maria instructed Little Suzie that her little one was the future so she had to be a good mum. Harry's instructions were that he grow up big and strong, a fighter, and when it was time to leave his mum to head away from the proposed Highway.

Harry’s death is sad and tragic but is a timely reminder that for those of us who live with koalas, we need to check as soon as possible that the koalas are okay when trees and branches are down.

Don’t our koala populations face enough natural threats without our subdivisions and highways?

--LV

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