THE first of the last season's koala joeys are now appearing on their mother's backs after six to seven months in the pouch.
For most of the joeys it's a magic time as they learn to recognise the tastes and smells of different tree species and begin to explore their surroundings.
They also learn to climb and jump with their mothers close by to supervise.
For one joey at St Helens Park, however, life has been a battle.
He was seen on his mother's back, walking beside a road in the bush and the observer, Margaret, felt that something was not right with them.
By the time I arrived, mother and joey were high in a grey gum and I could see no signs of injury so we resolved to leave them despite the distant call of a potential predator, the powerful owl.
Next morning Margaret rang to say that the joey was still in the grey gum but the mother was gone.
When I and WIRES member Cate Ryan arrived, however, Margaret had found the mother dead on the ground and was nursing the joey which had climbed down the tree seeking comfort.
We were able to express a drop or two from the dead mother's teat but the milk gland was small and the joey was unlikely to have had a good feed for some time.
The mother's fur was knotted and unkempt and she had a huge swelling under her neck.
When we took the body to the Wildlife Health and Conservation Centre at Cobbitty, the post-mortem examination showed that the swelling was a huge tumour (lymphosarcoma) that was not only on the neck but also in the body cavity. The poor animal would have have been suffering severely but still managed to climb a tree with her joey on her back.
The joey is now in care but will be very weak and vulnerable.
Caring for it will not be easy.
■ Elsewhere koala sightings have been many and widespread.
Two calls, in fact, have come in while I've been writing this column, one from Menai and the other, a roadkill report, from Picton Road near Wilton.
In previous days there have been sightings from St Helens Park Drive; Wedderburn Gorge; O'Hares Road, Wedderburn; Cook Reserve, Ruse; Riverview Road, Kentlyn; Minto Heights and a mother and joey from Old Kent Road, Ruse.
Motorists all around Campbelltown should be on the lookout.
Report koala sightings on the UWS pager, 9962 9996.