Beasts of the Wild
Beasts of the Wild

It's a koala's life in South Australia

Koalas keep us up at night in springtime.

It's a koala's life in South Australia
This koala had a busy night of lovemaking just outside my daughter's window.

It’s hard to describe the sound that koalas make in the middle of the night during mating season. If I had to guess, I’d say that it is a cross between a pig snorting and a bear rutting. It’s rhythmic and loud, and more nights than not, it is just outside our bedroom window in Stirling, South Australia, located just 15 minutes away from the capital city of South Australia.

This koala is taking a daytime siesta after a busy night. If only we could take one, but I need to work for a living.

Koalas are marsupials, which means they have adorable pouches on their bellies. When they give birth, their offspring is smaller than your pinky finger. This hairless creature somehow instinctively finds its way from the cloaca to the pouch where it stays for a few months. One of the most adorable sites is when the little joey climbs out of the pouch and onto Mum’s back for a joy ride.

Last year, in early spring, I awoke to the sound of a mew, or was it a yawl? I thought that it was a kitten calling for its mum, but after an hour of hearing the sound just outside the window just before sunrise, I got out of bed and put on a robe to see what the racket was. It was a baby koala, the size of a six week old kitten. The mother was nowhere in site and the poor joey only had an hour before succumbing to hypothermia, so I did what anyone would do. I took off my robe and picked it up. We went inside, and just like a mother with a newborn, I held the joey next to my chest…skin-to-skin, to warm it up. Never once did I consider that the creature could have chlamydia which plagues many of the species around here. (thankfully, it didn’t)

At 6am, I called the wildlife rescue number and apparently I awoke a kind volunteer who started to call around to see if any volunteers lived in our area. By 9am, a volunteer from the local rescue came to our property and the two of us spent the next three hours trying to reunite the joey with the mum. Another volunteer joined us by noon. That volunteer told us that sometimes the mothers are sick from kidney failure and can no longer take care of their kin. He took our beautiful little baby to the local veterinarian who did a thorough exam and gave joey a clean bill of health.

This amazing volunteer agreed to take care of the joey until it could be released in the wild again. This is a big undertaking. The baby needs to be fed every 2 hours, and the food isn’t exactly available at the local grocery store. They combine a marsupial milk with feces from female koalas so that the joey can build up a healthy gut bacteria. Most joeys don’t make it if they are abandoned, but that doesn’t stop volunteers from trying.

Our property has at least 7 koalas at any one time. Earlier this year, just 8km away, a huge area was ravaged by the Cuddlee Creek fire which significantly reduced koala populations in the Adelaide Hills. This forced the lucky animals that got away from the swift moving blaze into suburban areas such as ours. We really don’t mind. After all, we moved from the USA so that we could be closer to nature. Still, we had no idea that our property would be overrun by so much wildlife. The kangaroos, lorikeets, and cockatoos came in huge numbers and stripped our vineyard and orchards within a month. Rare black cockatoos even made an appearance, likely fleeing from the Kangaroo Island fires.

The kangaroos are quiet and friendly companions, but much of the local wildlife isn’t so silent. Cockatoos can startle us with a loud screech and the kookaburras laugh as our early morning wake up call. This sure beats the scream of a fire or ambulance siren or a screech of car brakes any time.

Now, onto the details of the photo. I took it just outside my daughter’s window and used an Adobe Lightroom preset called underwater dehaze to eliminate the reflection from the window. The photo was taken a little after sunrise.

wild animals
Monique Littlejohn
Monique Littlejohn
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Monique Littlejohn

Monique Littlejohn is an artist, photographer, and writer living on a hobby farm in South Australia. She shifted between Southern California and Australia for a few years before making Stirling her permanent home 4 years ago.

See all posts by Monique Littlejohn