28 September 2020

Bredbo rescues a koala named John

| Sharon Kelley
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Koala rescue team at site of rescue in Bredbo.

This koala rescue team successfully rescued John from a street tree in Bredbo. Photo: Supplied.

A koala found in a street tree at the front of Bicentennial Park in the centre of Bredbo has been rescued both from the dangers of the Monaro Highway and aggressive magpies. The koala is one of several found in Bredbo in recent years.

James Fitzgerald from Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust was called by Bredbo Inn publican Matt Thomas after patrons reported the koala being swooped by magpies. Matt and a small group of concerned locals stood vigil until James arrived.

James did not want to risk stressing the koala by just flagging him down because the busy Monaro Highway was only metres away. He and his willing helpers created a corflute barrier fence around the tree, with a trap at the back of it.

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Lauren Van Dyke from Bredbo Landcare Group collected some fresh local Eucalyptus viminalis – ribbon gum, the preferred food tree of koalas – and draped the branches over the trap to coax down the koala.

James then spent a long night in his vehicle beside the tree watching the koala. The reluctant young male marsupial was coaxed down the next day by two of Gold Leaf Tree Services’ professional tree climbers.

The koala was safely taken to the Australian National University’s koala expert Dr Karen Forde’s enclosure for a physical check-up, weighing 9.4kg.

More koalas may be making their way through Bredbo, which is situated in an open valley with little native vegetation and a major highway running through it. Young male koalas are often driven out of the territory of an older male to find a new territory in which to breed.

A recent debate on land management and tree felling to protect koalas and other native animals following the Black Summer bushfire threatened to split the NSW Parliament. It helped decide the young koala’s name. One of the crew suggested he be given the name John, after NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. The crew felt Mr Barilaro may enjoy a friendly koala named after him at the present time.

The Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust sanctuary at Peak View was destroyed in the Black Summer bushfires. While attempting to keep the fire from the sanctuary and James’s home, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules firefighting air tanker crashed, claiming the lives of its three American crew. The home and sanctuary were both lost in the fires.

James has rebuilt five state-of-the-art koala rehabilitation buildings at the sanctuary, and named three koalas after the crew of the Hercules air tanker.

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