Koala Conservation In Queensland: Prospero’s Story

This is my husband, Stephen. He speaks for the trees, that's what we do. Right now, he also speaks for the koalas.

I think my husband’s job is awesome, which is part of why I delight in spending 14 hours+ to make him custom t-shirts (or really anything else he requires for work gear.)  He goes out a few days a week to track and collar koalas in the surrounding Brisbane urban countryside and often sends me shots like this from the field while I’m bent over my drafting:

This is a juvenile, from about a month ago, and I went all kinds of "ooohhhh baby waby precious widdle beeebeee fuzzy wuzzy booo boo gooooo" gooey when he sent me this pic in the middle of a work day. I want to share more of this story, I'm just waiting for clearance from the university. The video footage of the joey with his mommy is sweet.

I love it when he’s out working and my phone goes off sounding like a telegraph line to turn up a photo like this.  I haven’t had the chance to go out with him in the field until the other day when he was assigned Prospero’s release.  Prospero is a mature male.

Prospero spent some time in a large state of the art animal hospital near Beerwah for a general health checkup and to clear his acute cystitis.  They don’t mess around with cystitis because it can cause infertility, and since koalas are in decline to begin with the ecologists pay close attention to the sexual health of the koalas they track.  They need Prospero healthy and vigorous, out in the bush to sow his wild oats to seed the next several generations of koalas in southeast Queensland.

"Why, that's my dainty Ariel! I shall miss thee;
But yet thou shalt have freedom. So, so, so."
The Tempest (V, i, 95-96)

We picked Lila up early from preschool that day so she could meet a live koala.  She sat in the back seat next to the cage; I told her he needed quiet so he wouldn’t be scared, and not to poke her fingers in the cage or be noisy.  She sat next to him with a radiant smile on her face and sang silly small child songs for the 45 minute ride to his home.

As Stephen sat Propero’s cage at the base of the tree, I sat down to get a shot with him but Prospero was beside himself.  He definitely knew that after his sojourn in the hospital we had brought him home and was not interested in being photogenic.  I do hope if he ever decides to write his story like Black Beauty or Stuart Little, we’ll be the nice humans.

Stephen carefully checked both his field notes and the GPS to make sure we dropped Prospero off right on his home doorstep.  It’s really no good to take the time to re-rehabilitate an animal only to put him back in unfamiliar terrain, so they are very very careful to document where they find a sick koala.  They take great care of these animals, while preserving their wild natures.

We drove for some time until the road gave out, then Stephen picked up the cage and carried Prospero to his home.  It wasn’t far, but it was rather rough going in some places.  The light was beautiful.

(I am SORRY I took this from the wrong angle, I don’t know how to change it but if you do please tell me so I can fix this.)

Prospero about 20 feet up in his tree, surveying the countryside.

The aim of the project is to try to reduce koala causalities on the roads.  Sadly, most koala casualties are caused by dog attacks or road incidents.  The ecologists work to understand how koalas interact with their increasingly urbanized environment.  That’s why they track them- to check if they use existing wildlife corridors, and how to make such corridors more attractive to koalas in general.  They also track koalas to determine if other corridors should be made and where, in order to reduce the impact of human activities on this Australian icon.

We do what we can and leave the rest to God.


    • He came home once with a weird pink puddle down his light colored t-shirt. I asked “Did you pick up a lady koala during her special time?” But no- it was pee. Koalas pee pink. The things I learn… ;)

  1. D’awww what a great story! The husband and I often send cute animal pics to each other throughout the day…but that’s just from lolcats and the Fluffington Post – nothing as cool as this!

    • I like them.. They do make terrible noises though… These screechy grunty noises… That’s how they find them in the trees sometimes, the guys on the ground make grunty sounds and the koalas snap to attention even when they’ve just been snoozing quietly in a tree…

    • He was so docile for the whole trip, not worried about anything, just hanging out… Then when he saw his tree, he was beside himself… Stephen could hardly get the cage open, and Prospero tried to slide through a little opening like a cat through a hole in a fence… :)

    • I know. I get slightly jealous when he sends me awesome photos, but it was worse last year when he was doing fish studies up north. It’s revolting. He spent hours and hours every day for weeks snorkeling in the pristine rivers and conducting fish surveys… Of course, there’s also a lot of boring work that goes along with what he does… data entry and analysis.. chart making… I don’t know for sure what else but it’s about a 40-60 divide between fun work and boring work and I don’t envy him the stats stuff…

  2. Oh wow, that’s amazing Steph! Thanks for sharing with us. I’ve been excited about this post since you mentioned a koala release a few weeks back. You guys do good work.

    • Aw, thanks Heather. I wish I was more involved, but mostly I just oooh and aaah over his stories and pictures. I’d like to post more about the project, but I have to clear it with his supervisor… and it might take some persuading… Sigh.

  3. Oh Stephanie this is lovely and thank you also to Stephen. It is lovely to see such good nature stories to help balance the not so good things we see so often.

  4. Ooooooooooooh! Thank you for sharing! What an amazing story! I particularly love the video – hearing your laugh, and Lila saying goodbye. I was hoping that this was what happened as soon as I saw your header photo.

  5. Did you see the article in the QWeekend magazine in Saturday’s courier about “our dying emblem”? Let me know if you want me to keep it for you.

  6. What a wonderful story. My daughter’s school has their own school koala here in northern Brisbane and it is wonderful to see the children’s faces when they see him. And yes, I can see why they are run over. We must be so careful as they are nocturnal and move at night. I have seen one crossing our street at night. Such a beautiful sight to behold.

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