A day in the life of a koala carer

Marilyn Spletter, a volunteer for the Ipswich Koala Protection Society, gives her account on what it’s like being a koala carer.

“Before I was a carer, I used to start my days with a long walk. Sometimes I’d find possums on the side of the road that had been hit by cars. Some were alive and had joeys so I took them to a Queensland National Parks office at Moggill (now a koala rehabilitation hospital) to pass them on to one of their wildlife carers. Little did I know that, with a little bit of coaxing and help from the ranger, I was soon looking after them myself. That was 30 years ago. I raised dozens of possums and gliders until one day I was given a koala joey to look after. It changed my life (now I start the day feeding koalas).

I’ve learnt a lot about raising koalas from other carers when I started and now, I’m happy to share what I know with anyone who wants to learn. My best guess is that I’ve raised about 140 koalas over the years. They were my teachers too. They have all had their personalities and I learned their likes and dislikes as much as possible to give them the best chance of survival that I can.

It can get hectic as a carer, but it’s a two-way connection. I tell other carers that you have to give them part of your soul and in return they give you part of theirs. It’s not a job. It’s more of a privilege that takes commitment and it has its happy days and its sad days. But when you get them to the stage where they’re in ‘kindy’ learning to live without human contact; the effort to get them ready to go back to the wild is worth it. When they’re ready to be released, I like to go along and watch from a distance—sad to see it go, but happy that the wild population of koalas has just gotten a little bigger.”