Other animals

My girl’s a koala whisperer!

So cute!

Ali’s big-hearted girl has a special gift.

Here, Ali Bee, 54, from Magnetic Island, Queensland, shares the story in her own words.

Watching the credits roll across the screen, I glanced at my husband Tim, 60, and our daughter Izzy, 13.

‘Can you believe we are on TV!’ Izzy squealed in excitement.

We weren’t extras or professional actors, we were just normal people. But Izzy was the star of the show – and for good reason!

It all started 20 years ago, when I was living in Hong Kong and went on a three-day trip to beautiful Magnetic Island.

There, I met and fell head over heels for Tim, who had his own business hiring out paddle boats and kayaks at the beach, and… well… I never left!

I moved in with him and started working as a vet on the island.

After six years together, we discussed having children, but we knew that, being a bit older, our chances were slimmer.

So we didn’t put too much pressure on the situation and decided to focus on work – I even purchased a veterinary clinic on the island.

Then, a few months later, we got the most incredible news – I was pregnant!

Izzy, her dad and a roo
Getting to know a roo with her dad

When baby Izzy was born, she was just as perfect as we envisaged.

With a vet practice to run, I started taking her to work with me when she was just five weeks old.

Izzy quickly got used to being surrounded by creatures great and small!

‘I’m either traumatising my little girl or turning her into an animal lover,’ I laughed.

But often, I spent my days snowed under with paperwork, so I decided to sell the business and focus on what I do best – save animals.

After it sold, I continued to work as a vet at different clinics. And Izzy loved visiting Mummy at work.

As the years went by, the species of patients changed.

It wasn’t just pet golden retrievers and tabby cats I was seeing, but also lots of koalas.

More homes being built on the island meant that koalas were often crawling through people’s backyards.

So the community would regularly bring injured ones to the vets.

The cages in the clinics soon grew full, and I had only one option left.

‘Tim, I think we’re going to have to make some room at home,’ I told him.

Without skipping a beat, he created enclosures outside the house. Then I began bringing home orphaned and injured koalas.

Izzy and a cat
She loved visiting me at work

We always kept the adults away from Izzy, by then 10, because often the rescues would be frightened and could turn dangerous.

‘They aren’t always cute and fluffy, sometimes they are a whirling ball of teeth and claws!’ I told her.

But she would always sneak time for cuddles with the babies and loved picking names for them.

‘I haven’t managed to get Crikey to eat yet,’ I told Tim, concerned one day.

Our newest roommate weighed 500 grams and would only take a bottle.

I tried everything to encourage him to eat solids, but nothing worked.

But then I turned around to the sound of crunching.

There was Izzy, gum leaves in hand, cooing, cuddling and handfeeding Crikey!

That’s when I knew Izzy was something special.

From there, she created special bonds with every single koala that came through our door.

‘The koala whisperer,’ we laughed watching her at work.

Helping them get back on their paws and climb their favourite tree, Izzy was the one doing the rescuing, not me.

Izzy with koala
Koalas respond to her calm presence

And, sure enough, the animals would regain their strength, ready to be released back into the wild.

We even started taking our koala whisperer out to rescues with us!

‘You’ve got this way with the koalas; they just understand you,’ I told her.

We hadn’t even taught her how to handle them; she’d taught herself and the koalas would gravitate towards her.

Wild animals, they were often terrified and needed a calming, loving presence.

Izzy would just sit and watch, then swiftly catch an injured koala and gently wrap a blanket around its sharp claws.

‘To the hospital!’ she would chuckle.

And by hospital, she meant our glorified garden shed!

We’d got a grant from the government so we could continue rehabilitating koalas.

With that money, we turned our garden shed into a koala hospital, or critical care unit, to provide necessary treatments.

We are so grateful to receive the help, not just from the government, but from the whole community.

‘It takes an island to raise a koala,’ I laugh.

Ali, Izzy and koala
Checking over one of the locals

But it’s true.

There are the lovely knitting ladies who fundraise for us. And there are those who have helped with IT and graphic design for our social media pages, so that people all over the world can see what we’re up to and learn about the importance of koala conservation.

Then, in July 2019, we were approached by producers who wanted to make a documentary about our incredible girl!

A camera crew followed us around, and Izzy’s Koala World was created.

Izzy
Our animal lover

Looking at my little girl on screen, I beamed with pride.

The world needs koalas just as much as koalas need the world. They are such beautiful symbols of our native wildlife.

Izzy is saving the world, one koala at a time.

You can watch ‘Izzy’s Koala World’ on Netflix now.

Related stories