Tragedy to triumph as baby koala gets ready for release
WHEN Granite Belt Wildlife Carers first saw tiny Jeffrey the koala joey, their hopes for his survival were slim.
But now, six months later, he is now gearing for his big release back into the wild.
The GBWC team first met Jeffrey when a Liston resident called them across border lines after spotting his dying mother in the middle of August traffic.
Suffering from a prolapsed bowel, "there was no hope for her being saved", and she was sadly euthanised.
But the future was brighter for little Jeffrey, who was hidden inside his mother's pouch.
Carer Betty Balch said at the time he only weighed 425g.
"He was just as big as my hand," she said.
While vets warned Mrs Balch rehabilitation would be a difficult journey, the carer was not deterred as she took on the job of hand-rearing him.
"At that size, it is not an easy job at all," she said.
"Having said that, it was also one of the greatest delights you could ever have. He is just the dearest thing."
Now weighing 2.7kg, the "playful and naughty" Jeffrey is thriving.
"He loves to sit on your head, or climb up your legs, or anything he's not meant to," Mrs Balch said.
His imminent release would be a "bittersweet" one for his surrogate mother.
"It is the best outcome possible to be able to rear them and let them back into the wild," Mrs Balch said.
"It is the loveliest thing but also very hard. He's my baby."
Fellow GBWC carer Ruth Bolt said the recovery would have never been possible without Mrs Balch's dedication, spending many a sleepless night looking after koalas and other native orphans.
"She's done a great job to get them to where they are. It's very hard to raise them," Mrs Bolt said.
"She's very dedicated and a well-respected carer. She's a pretty wonderful person."
As more locals grow attuned to the struggles of wildlife, Mrs Balch just hoped Jeffrey's story would be a glimmer of hope.
"We've been having more calls about wildlife in general, from little birds to all wildlife, over the last 18 months," she said.
"I hope it means people are becoming are more aware of the plight of the animals."
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