I meant to write about this ages ago and then forgot:
I was out at the farm, talking to the new owner and her young daughter at the front of their house, when New Owner looked up to see a koala lumbering across the front lawn towards the cow paddock. You rarely see a koala in daylight, let alone one walking across the grass, so this was unusual, but I had seen it happen before when I lived there: early one morning I’d heard a commotion in the cow paddock and looked out a window to see a koala barely escaping from a mob of cows who were chasing and prancing around it.
I told New Owner that I’d walk the koala across the paddock so that my cows wouldn’t hurt it, so off I went, into the paddock. And all my cows except one did as they were told and stayed at a distance. But Baby1, who is a bossy big thing, wouldn’t stay back, and kept trying to push around me to get to the koala. (Cows aren’t usually aggressive, but they do get touchy about their territory being breached by unknown things.) I kept pushing back against Baby1, and I mean I was really leaning into her full-strength, trying to push her away. But it wasn’t doing much good, and I was starting to panic because I was scared she’d run around and step on the poor koala (who was galloping as fast as it could for the far side of the paddock). I knew that if Baby1 started running then the other cows and calves would follow her, and it’d be a mob scene, a mini stampede, and I’d be unable to protect the koala.
So, I was already panicking, okay, and so was the koala, I’m guessing, because suddenly it changed course to head for the only tall thing in our vicinity: a wooden electricity pole. I tried to head it off, but no, it leapt at the pole and started to climb. I thought, “No! It’ll be electrocuted!” and I grabbed its back legs around the ankles.
The koala was climbing the pole with its front legs and I was hanging onto its back legs, and it was a tussle worthy of comedy. I don’t have a clue what the cows were doing, except I know that Baby1 wasn’t interfering, so I guess they were standing back and marvelling at my stupidity. I was marvelling myself and wondering what the hell was going to happen next.
I thought that if I let go of its legs the koala would climb to the top of the pole and be electrocuted. That’s probably rubbish (I think you have to touch two wires at a time to be electrocuted – that’s how bats die – and why would the koala have done that?). But I wasn’t thinking straight. Coming so soon after the cow panic I just couldn’t think, so I just kept hanging onto the koala.
But the koala kept trying to climb. So I started smacking it about the head, yelling “No! Stop!” or something like that. All I can remember about this is that the koala was screaming (no, really) and it smelled like timber (a strange smell I’d never smelled before).
Sometime around now I started to wonder how this was going to end… I’m hanging onto a koala and smacking it in the head, and if I let go it’s either going to electrocute itself or tear me to bits. I could not think of anything to do other than look over my shoulder and wonder what had happened to New Owner.
And yes, she leapt to the rescue. She ran across the paddock with a pair of thick gardening gloves and a beach towel, and threw the towel over the koala’s head – at which point it calmed down and relaxed, and we were able to lift it down from the pole and wrap it in the towel and carry it across and out of the paddock (to where it appeared to have been headed) and release it onto the ground far from cows. He or she raced up the nearest tree.
I shouldn’t have touched the poor thing. It’s a wild animal. It wouldn’t have been electrocuted, it would have just hung onto the pole till nightfall and then climbed down again to go on its merry way in peace.
I hope it wasn’t hurt. I don’t think it was.
And for me, I have a little laugh now whenever I hear a koala calling from the trees at the farm. The poor thing is probably terrified I’ll try to pull its leg.