15 July 2008
Belted by a car and hauled 12km, but this lucky koala dodges death
He’s got to be the luckiest koala in Queensland- not only surviving a hit by a car travelling at 100km/h, but also a harrowing, fur-raising 12km ride with his head stuck in the vehicle’s front grille.
So it’s no wonder the staff at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast have dubbed the 8-year-old marsupial Ely "Lucky" Grills, after the late Australian television actor with the same name.
Astonishingly, little Lucky suffered no serious injuries in the unusual car versus koala clash.
This was even though initial rescuers who saw him stuck to the car and alerted the unsuspecting driver believed he had been decapitated.
It turned out the koala's body was dangling from the front of the car, but his head and left arm had been forced through the grille with the force of 100km/h impact.
Zoo staff yesterday said the accident had happened on Dayboro Rd near the Petrie Quarry on twilight last week.
The driver was unaware of her unusual hitchhiker until she stopped 12km away at Petrie Railway Station.
An urgent call was made to the Caboolture Koala Care and Rescue group, with member Rhonda Hay undertaking the delicate job using scissors as the "jaws of life" to cut around the car's grille mesh to release the animal.
Lucky was able to sit up and eat after two hours in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Hospital manager Gail Gipp said the koala's story underlined the need for drivers to always be alert for wildlife on roads and to be prepared to stop and seek help in the case of an accident.
"Koalas are more likely to be on the move over the next few weeks coinciding with the onset of the koala breeding season," she said.
"We ask drivers to exercise particular caution when travelling in koala habitat areas."
Ms Gipp said that because koalas were bumper-bar height, they were vulnerable to suffering severe injuries from even the slightest car hit, highlighting how fortunate Lucky was to survive unscathed.
In keeping with his new name, the hospital's veterinary team discovered Lucky was also suffering an underlying chlamydial infection, for which he is now receiving treatment. He should be released back into the wild in 45 days.
Ms Gipp said nearly a quarter of the hospital's 5000-plus admissions last year were animals that had been hit by cars.