Koala Rescue

It was a busy and exciting month of September for staff. Several different native wild animals were rescued and taken there for care.

One of the most remarkable of these rescues was a young male koala, affectionately named “Woollybutt” since this was one of his favourite species of eucalypt to munch on.

He was found in August sitting in the middle of the road near Wapengo and put into a covered basket while not wanting to move, by his rescuer. This is the best way to assist a koala as it provides support on all sides of the body. He was taken to Potoroo Palace the next day, still sitting in his basket and still seemingly stunned.

Staff had prepared for him a warm, safe enclosure with a tall tree stump and he was carefully checked over again for signs of injury (having already been examined by a vet). The basket was gently tipped towards the stump and to staff’s amazement he crawled out and climbed it, nestling himself comfortably in a fork.

For the next few days he took supplement from a syringe and ate quantities of specially selected eucalyptus leaves. It was a rare privilege for staff to participate in such a heart-warming experience and to be directly contributing to the broader community effort of conserving this local koala population.

“Woollybutt” was dazed and confused  upon arrival but as the days went by he began to make it quite clear that his Potoroo Palace Retreat was coming to an end and he told staff quite plainly that he was ready to go home! This was a little sooner than anticipated and not everyone could be there for his release as planned. The staff who did witness his release were deeply touched to see him return to the wild. He is the first wild koala since 2001to be released in this area and it was a very special moment.

Nigel Charms Palace

One of Potoroo Palace’s newest arrivals is “Nigel” a Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens -meaning ‘reddish high-rump’) and from the same family as that of the potoroo, except that he will grow to be larger. Nigel arrived at Potoroo Palace at the end of October 2014. He is now about 14 months of age and was raised in captivity locally as part of a Bettong Breeding Project which has been a long-time dream of Rob High’s; the owner of the Merimbula based holiday resort, Mandeni. Now this dream has been successfully actualized, and Nigel was generously donated to Potoroo Palace where he can show visitors how special and beautiful he is and assist keepers in sharing just how important the bettong’s role is within the natural environment.

During the day he stays tucked away in grassy nests within his enclosure but as soon as food is presented he scurries out to delve into his bowl of tasty delights, showing plenty of enthusiasm and a very healthy appetite! He can sometimes be seen peeking out through the fence inquisitively watching people. He has settled nicely into his new home and his photogenic qualities have been discovered and appreciated by many of the staff.

As with other members of this family there has been a dramatic reduction in the bettong’s distribution and numbers, but due to low intensity land-use practices throughout the bettong’s range, they have remained quite common and occupy a variety of habitats along much of the eastern coastal areas.

Already, Potoroo Palace staff have fallen head over heels for Nigel and it is always with much delight that he is served his food at meal times. Staff  look forward to seeing his unique personality revealed a little more each day and to showing him off to the public on the Educational Talks, teaching visitors all about him; the adorable Rufous Bettong.

 

Bell Miner – manorina melanophrys

Upon arrival at Potoroo Palace, visitors often remark on the tinkling sound in the trees around us and more than once someone has shared with us the anxiety they have experienced driving along in their car with windows open and wondering what the worrying noise was emitting from their vehicle, only to realize with some relief that it was actually coming from the trees! It was in fact the song of the Bell Miner.

If there was a prize for achieving one of the most distinct sound tracks to Potoroo Palace, it should go to the Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys). Other common names for this bird include “bellbird” and “bell mynah”. They are often more frequently heard than seen but at Potoroo Palace they can be more visible (and more audible!) as they are very used to people and much less frightened.

It is a sad fact that the Bell Miner, although a native species; a honeyeater, it has acquired an unpopular reputation in recent times. Many native species of birds are displaced by the behaviour of Bell Miners defending their food suppliers, psyllids which exude a protective sugary covering known as lerps, on the leaves. They farm the psyllids and just relish the lerps which are to be found on eucalyptus leaves. The psyllids love to munch on these leaves and the Bell Miners chase away and will sometimes kill other birds which would normally be feeding on the psyllids and keeping bellminerthe health of the trees in balance.

The “Pretty Garden,” leading away from the cafe was purposely developed as a sanctuary for smaller birds to be protected from the Bell Miners. Lots of thick cover was created with shrubs providing a protective layer for smaller birds such as Red-browed Finches, Scrub Wrens, Whipbirds and Superb Blue Wrens. This is a beautiful, shady and peaceful garden with a pathway meandering through from the cafe to the Potoroo Train Station and “Elvis” our free roaming Tammar Wallaby can sometimes be spied upon keeping cool in the undergrowth there.

The dieback of our forests is often blamed on these much maligned birds and as healthy forests become fewer in number and size, the Bell Miners do accordingly increase in numbers. They prefer to dwell on the fringes of forests and unfortunately our forest fringes are ever increasing as more wild spaces are lost.  Disturbed environments inevitably lead to out of balance ecosystems and therefore the species which constitute them such as the Bell Miner. When the recovery of our forests becomes priority then balance can return naturally.

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SIX NEW FURRY PUNKS AT POTOROO PALACE

A few weeks ago six small precious bundles arrived in pastel pillowcases travelling by the fastest transport possible (drivers feeding each other so as not to have to pause on the journey) from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra: three male and three female Long-nosed Potoroos. They have now joined the eleven residents, who all have biblical names: Esther, Magdalen, Bathsheba, Ruth, Rachel, Jezebel, Eve, Ezekiel, Daniel, Noah and Solomon. The new six have plant names: Fern, Moss and Orchid (female) and Sedge, Bracken and Wattle (male).

Staff at Potoroo Palace have been able to gather a huge variety of mushrooms recently because the weather has been perfect for all kinds of fungi, the potoroos favourite food. The potoroos themselves are excellent truffle finders, truffles being the fruiting bodies of underground fungi. Australia has a huge variety of truffles, of all shapes, sizes and colours. The truffles rely on small fungus eating native animals (especially potoroos because most of their preferred diet is fungus) and insects to distribute their spores. Most forest trees and many shrubs in Australia have mutually beneficial relationships with these underground fungi. Most of the fruiting bodies grow between the hard subsoil and the rotting leaf litter layer.

The breeding programme for Long-nosed Potoroos at PP has been very successful, but the new arrivals are needed to prevent inbreeding. The seventeen potoroos are distributed between seven enclosures at the moment, making it easier to spot them. The potoroos are happy to share enclosures with many of the birds.

Our emu chicks have grown up!

Our emu chicks have grown up! These 2 are  enjoying a bath. They love to get muddy. Afterwards they shake themselves as a dog would.

emus - Jade Harris (3)

Having a good wallow and cooling off on a hot day.

 

 

 

Violet, Purple Swamphen

Tura Beach Country Club rang one of the wildlife groups to complain about a Purple Swamphen which was jumping on tables and taking food from customers. They wanted it removed.

And so Violet arrived at the Sanctuary.

At first she shared the Café Pen with the potoroos, and roosted high in a Kangaroo Apple Tree at night.

Then she started appearing each night at the house where two keepers, Tom and Warran, were staying. She seemed to like human company. In the morning, Tom would find the hole through which she had escaped, and mend it. It soon became obvious that she was making the holes herself in the black netting which covered the top of the pen.

We discovered that she had been reared by a human foster parent, and so was more drawn to humans than to other birds.

Now she lives in a much bigger pen with wire over the top.

She runs to every visitor who comes past, and likes to have her head scratched. She screeches when the train goes round.

Purple Swamphens, in the wild, live in family groups. Many females may lay in one nest and take turns in incubating the eggs. When the chicks hatch, they are taken out to forage, usually by a young family member, and kept warm at night by other family members. They are found in wetlands in our local area.

Potoroo Palace on Facebook

Potoroo Palace is now on Facebook, please feel free to have a look and interact with us. Looking forward to your involvement: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Potoroo-Palace-Native-Animal-Sanctuary/591275070931973

Phoebe’s story

Phoebe is the only one of the nine Grey-headed Flying Foxes who can fly. She is also the biggest and fattest of them!

She was found as an orphan by a boy in the grounds of Quaama Public School. That year many adult Flying Foxes were being brought into care suffering from starvation because of the clearing of their food trees (rain forest species and flowering gums) and drought. She was very underweight for her age and may not have been getting enough milk from her mother to give her the strength to hang on to her mother’s body as the latter flew out to forage.

Phoebe was fostered by a first-time carer who decided not to use a dummy; instead the carer liked to have Phoebe clinging to her hair. All flying-fox orphans need to have a dummy otherwise they think they are going to fall; wild babies hold onto their mothers for the first five weeks by grasping the nipple in their mouths and holding onto her body with their claws. The mother flies out each evening to search for food with the baby clinging to her stomach. At six weeks old, the babies are left behind in the camp together in a crèche for the night; at dawn the mothers come back and the babies can feed from them. At thirteen weeks old the babies begin to fly and can accompany the adults (for short distances at first) when they fly out at dusk.

The carers of Flying Fox orphans try to mimic the wild situation by putting the orphans into a creche together at thirteen weeks old. Usually one or two older males are put with them to teach them rules of Flying Fox behaviour. The creche is always fairly close to an existing Flying Fox camp.
At night the release door of the creche aviary is left open so that the young ones can come and go at will and learn to fly out with the adults.

Phoebe was soft released in this way, but while her peers came and went and eventually remained with the colony, Phoebe always returned at night to be fed in the creche aviary. She was happy to socialise all day with hundreds of wild Flying Foxes, but came back at night to be fed by humans.
If she were pushed out into the wild, she would fly straight to the first person she saw. And she has never learned to forage for herself.

Flying Foxes

Nine Grey-headed Flying Foxes now live at Potoroo Palace. They came from the Pambula Conservation Area, known as Batty Towers. Over the years, many injured and orphaned Flying Foxes have come to the hospital aviary there. Many have recovered and been released back into the colony which camps there between February and May in years when there is a mass flowering of bloodwoods.

The nine who have come to Potoroo Palace are ones who have repeatedly been offered the opportunity of leaving to join the wild Flying Foxes via the release door of the aviary, which is opened at dusk each night while the colony is in residence at Pambula, and closed at dawn. They have chosen not to go. In eight cases this is because their injuries from barbed wire, loose netting over fruit trees, or electrocution have been too severe for them to heal enough to enable them to fly again. In one case it is because an orphan, Phoebe, was inappropriately reared by a well-meaning, but inexperienced, carer and was unable to wean herself from humans.

When visitors come to look at the Flying Foxes, the Flying Foxes stare back at them. They have very pretty furry faces and bright eyes. It is easy to see how intelligent they are. They are interested in everything that is going on around them. It is as if they need to get to know each new person. They play with the keepers who come into their aviary, and take banana pieces very delicately so as not to bite them. Sometimes they stretch out a wing and hold onto the keeper’s hand with their thumb hook.

They have a lot of family arguments, but they never hurt each other.

Kid’s art inspires murals

Well known local artist Annie Franklin has created two colourful and exciting murals using drawings by children, that are now on display at Potoroo Palace.

The project was funded by CASP ( Country Arts Support Program of Regional Arts NSW ).

Many children took part in the popular Story Time when visiting Potoroo Palace with their families, and in the lead up to this project, they were asked to draw a picture of their favourite Potoroo Palace animal.

Annie faithfully enlarged those drawings, then spent time observing the animals to recreate their unique colourings and markings as naturally as possible.

This resulted in enough beautiful artwork to make two large, eyecatching murals that accurately show our animals as seen through the eyes of children.

One of the murals can be seen just near the entrance to the Blue Wren Café, and the other is on the outside of the Koala enclosure inside the Sanctuary.