Port Macquarie's Grand Dame Of The Gum Trees Dies

SHE was the grand lady of the gum trees in Port Macquarie’s central business district and was no stranger to mischief.

Last week, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s cheekiest girl succumbed to old age, but her legendary presence and ability to evade injury or death while on one of her adventures will be among the fond memories of those who knew her as Garage Girl.

At 20 years of age, Garage Girl was one of the region’s oldest koalas and a popular visitor to the treetops at St Thomas’ Church, the fire station and court house.

She had won the hearts of many and was always number one on the list of offenders if a koala was up to no good in town.

Cheyne Flanagan, koala hospital supervisor, said Garage Girl was a gentle little soul with loads of personality and she will be missed by the hospital volunteers and the firies who always kept an eye on her health and where she wandered.

“She was just an old lady and her time had come,” Cheyne said yesterday of Garage Girl’s passing. Like many of her species, Garage Girl was also battling health complications associated with chlamydia, a disease that has affected koala populations nationwide.

“It is just incredible that for an animal that lived in such a dangerous environment she managed to survive for 20 years,” Cheyne said.

“She was a special one – I think she’s pretty magic.”

Garage Girl was first admitted to the koala hospital in November 1997 after a resident discovered the young koala in a confused state in their garage. Despite being fit and healthy Garage Girl, like many urban koalas in Port Macquarie, was struggling to find a suitable habitat with enough food trees.

She was treated at the hospital and returned to the central business district location where she was initially found, closer to healthy gum trees and where many of her relatives roamed.

While most female koalas remain within their home range, Garage Girl could not resist the bright lights of down town Port Macquarie and was often found wandering along William and Horton streets, dodging cars, surprising shoppers in the food court carpark at Port Central and holidaymakers on the balcony of Port Pacific Resort.

“In 2008 we had a particularly difficult retrieval on William Street when she decided to perch herself at the traffic lights,” Cheyne said. “We could not catch her and had traffic coming in all directions.

“The fire brigade just happened to pass by so we waved them down. They got their ladder out and up they went. They had no luck either. We ended up with a crowd of about 100 people watching and taking photos that day.”

After all the fuss and attention from some of her favourite burly firemen, Garage Girl spent the remainder of the afternoon curled up asleep after which she happily submitted to a retrieval.

“For 20 years she has diced with death, but she had never been hit by a car or had a broken bone.”

Garage Girl was last rescued on New Year’s Eve at the William and Murray street traffic lights, unperturbed by the revelry around her.

“That night she was just hunched over. She had had enough,” Cheyne said.

Garage Girl is believed to be among one of the region’s oldest koalas. The hospital boasts the record for the longest living koala in the world with Birthday Girl clocking up 25 years.

The Koala Hospital is considering the placement of a memorial to honour the adventures of one of their favourite girls.

Story By Tracey Fairhurst | Feb. 26, 2014, midnight

Source: http://www.portnews.com.au/story/2114208/port-macquaries-grand-dame-of-the-gum-trees-dies/?cs=257

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