After treating thousands of patients at her koala hospital, Cheyne Flanagan thought she'd seen it all.... Then along came paleface.
The koala is incredibly rare because although he has white fur instead of the usual grey/brown, he has the normal black eyes and nose. Albinos, which occur quite frequently, have pink eyes and noses.
The creature, nicknamed Mick, was found blind and suffering from a variety of illnesses by a forest ranger and taken to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, north of Sydney. He was immediately given round-the-clock security protection in case anyone tried to steal him and sell him to a collector for his novelty value.
After an operation on his eyes, he was put on antibiotics and gradually returned to full health. Mick has just been released back into the Bush after months of treatment - although his precise location remains a secret.
"We kept him isolated from the other koalas not only for health reasons but because we didn't want too many people to know we even had him with us," said Miss Flanagan. "Only a handful of staff were told about him, just in case word got about."
It is expected that rangers involved in taking Mick back to the bush will keep an eye on his health. "At least we shouldn't have too much trouble in finding him," said one. "He's one little fellow who will stand out in the crowd. One good thing is that he hasn't been rejected by other koalas. He's just part of the big family, even if he is a little different."