UQ veterinary school looks after baby koala recovering from eagle attack

Baby koala “Bob” was only 8 months old when he was scooped up in the talons of a hungry wedge-tailed eagle and taken for a flight.

But the furry 500-gram fellow struggled and fell to the ground, where he was lucky to be spotted by two early-morning walkers who sought help at the University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital, at the UQ School of Veterinary Science.

UQ Veterinary School
Paris Tootell, one of the night staff in the intensive care unit, with Bob the baby koala (Photo: University of Queensland)
Associate Professor Dr Bob Doneley from the centre’s avian and exotics team said the koala was now recovering well in the hands of an experienced carer, who had named him “Bob.”

“The koala came to us very depressed and lethargic. He wasn’t eating and had several bleeding puncture wounds in his armpit, with a lot of bruising and swelling around them,” Dr Doneley said.

“X-rays of his chest showed that, while there was some swelling in there, his lungs were intact.

“We treated him with intravenous fluid, antibiotics and painkillers.”

After a long sleep, Bob woke more responsive and started to eat special critical care formula, and was discharged from hospital to live at the home of the carer.

“We’re told he’s doing very well now and eating by himself,” Mr Doneley said.

“He was very lucky he didn’t become the eagle’s breakfast.”

When the time is right, the volunteer will work with Australia Zoo to find a suitable release spot for little “Bob.”

Dr Doneley has been a practicing vet for 34 years and says this case was the first he’d seen like it.

“I’ve seen a lorikeet that has been rescued from a carpet snake, animals that have been attacked by predators and survived, but I’ve certainly not seen an animal that has been dropped from mid-air.”

The clinic sees about 1000 wildlife cases a year, offering a variety of cases for UQ veterinary students to learn about treating and caring for wildlife.

“I always get a buzz when someone tells me they have released something back into its habitat,” Dr Doneley said.

“This job is rewarding on so many levels. Teaching university students to look after these animals is the best part of this job.

“What they learn here, they won’t learn in a private practice where the focus is more on domestic animals.  This is a huge opportunity to learn about disease, medicine, surgery and general care of birds, reptiles, small animals and wildlife cases.

“The skills students learn now will help them to help these and similar species in future, which is particularly important if they become endangered.”

UQ Veterinary School doesn’t receive any no government funding for wildlife care so it relies on community support through the Wildlife Emergency Care Fund.

“We are always grateful for donations to care for our native animals,” Dr Doneley said.

Studying veterinary science at the University of Queensland

Are you interested in veterinary science? UQ’s Bachelor of Veterinary Science program is one of the most sought after in Australia, attracting the very best students and producing veterinarians that are in high demand, both domestically and internationally.

The UQ Veterinary School has full accreditation with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and with both the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the UK, enabling UQ graduates to also practice in North America, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Hong Kong and most of Asia. Graduates of the Bachelor of Veterinary Science program may sit the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination in order to be qualified to practice veterinary science in North America.

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