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Koalas bring out Marilyn's caring side

KEY CARER: Experienced and passionate Koala and Possum carer Marilyn Spletter with Lindsie and Scarlett.
KEY CARER: Experienced and passionate Koala and Possum carer Marilyn Spletter with Lindsie and Scarlett. Francis Witsenhuysen

WITH the support of her husband Max, Marilyn Spletter has released 79 hand-raised orphaned koalas back into the wild during her time as a wildlife carer.

The Plainland resident has more than 25 years' experience caring for koalas and possums.

She has volunteered at Moggill Koala Hospital for that entire time and has served as vice-president of the Ipswich Koala Protection Society for 11 years.

The Spletters have been married for 44 years and since retiring two years ago, Max has gradually become more actively involved in helping Marilyn rescue and care for koalas and possums.

"He's pretty much telling me how to do it now,” Marilyn chuckled.

"It's really nice to do it together.”

A few years ago Max even obtained his own permit through the IKPS in case Marilyn wasn't around and couldn't feed the orphans.

"He'll whinge at times and say we don't have a social life because we are always feeding babies,” Marilyn said.

"But if we get a phone call for a koala he's the first to get the cage and the keys and the book to go and rescue.”

Marilyn said she has always had a strong affiliation with animals.

When her children had finished high school and her motherly tuckshop, committee and auxiliary duties were fulfilled, Marilyn began to pursue her dream of working with animals.

It was when one of her friends began volunteering at the newly-opened Moggill Koala Hospital that Marilyn decided to take the plunge.

"When my friend told me she'd begun working at Moggill Koala Hospital I said 'oh what's that? An old person's home is it?',” she said.

"When she told me it was a hospital for koalas I decided I was in and rang them the following week.”

Marilyn said her first day as a volunteer was extremely overwhelming and she began to get emotional explaining just how life changing it was.

"The first day I didn't know anything about koalas or wildlife,” Marilyn said.

"When I walked into the place I felt like it was where I was meant to be. It was like I'd come home.

"I'm sure I went home to Max and I couldn't shut up about it.”

"And she hasn't shut up about it since,” Max chimed in.

It was around that time, while Marilyn was on her daily 8km morning walk she began to find dead possums with little joeys still inside the pouch.

"I'd ring the Moggill Hospital to tell them I had a little pinkie, and they would give me a carer to take it to,” she said.

"But after about four pinkies, the man in charge said that I should start doing it myself and that he would tell me what to do.

"That's how I started rescuing and began being mentored with possums. You start with possums first.”

The eldest of eight children, Marilyn said she developed a nurturing side from a young age.

She said her mother has told her she always knew Marilyn would end up caring for animals.

"Before mum passed away we would go and visit her in the nursing home she would say to me 'I always knew you'd do something with animals, because you could do anything with your cat... you used to put it in your dolls pram and it would just stay there. But I didn't think it would be wildlife',” Marilyn said.

The most fulfilling thing about being a koala carer for Marilyn is releasing her "babies”.

"One of the most rewarding thing to do is to see a baby go up a tree,” she said.

"I'm lucky enough to release most of my babies.

"If you opened the cage and they jump straight up to the top, that's what you've done it all for.

"They've gone back to where they need to be.”

Marilyn said it was bitter- sweet to release the koalas.

"I say every koala you release takes a little bit of your heart with it,” she said.

Max and Marilyn have recently planted 230 eucalypt trees at the back of their Plainland property to be able to feed their orphaned koalas.

"By the time the trees have grown we might be too old to be doing it,” Marilyn said.

"It would be great if you didn't have to be a carer at all.

"But I do love it and we'll keep doing it until we are no longer able. Max might be pushing me in a wheelchair, who knows.”

Topics:  ipswich koala protection society koalas lockyer valley possum wildlife carer


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