Pixie the koala is a lucky little joey.
When she was born in July, it was expected she would not last long, but the 420g koala is growing stronger and on her way to continue the marsupial breeding program at the Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast.
Soon after her birth, her mother fell ill, leaving the new joey entirely vulnerable. The keepers at the park, headed by director Tim Faulkner, intervened to keep the joey alive.
At the time, she was no bigger than a soft drink can and weighed just 300g.
Describing himself as a 'surrogate father' for the joey, Mr Faulkner took on the round-the-clock care routine.
"The first feed is at 5am and then there are about four throughout the day," Mr Faulkner said.
The moniker, Pixie, was affectionately given by Mr Faulkner's two sons, nine-year-old Matty and 11-year-old Billy.
Currently working from home with his sons learning-from-home, Mr Faulkner said Pixie's care has been a balancing act.
"Between zoom meetings, online learning with the kids and koala feedings every four hours, there's a lot to juggle," he said.
"Pixie is the sweetest koala joey I've ever had the pleasure of raising. She just wants to be involved in everything we do at home.
"She's so inquisitive, she loves to sit with the kids when they're doing their homework or passing the time with a puzzle. The boys absolutely adore her."
With September representing Save The Koala Month, Mr Faulkner said the opportunity to hand-rear Pixie has been opportune and has become a hands-on conservation lessons for his primary school aged sons.
"Now that they're at the age where they can start developing those animal care skills, it's been an absolute joy to get them really hands-on with caring for Pixie," he said.
"The boys love helping me with preparing her bottle, feeding her and the all-important weigh-ins to make sure she's gaining weight every day.
"She's doing so well, she's even started to try eucalyptus leaf for the first time."
Once she's stable and strong enough, Pixie will return to the park to attend what Mr Faulkner called "koala preschool", where she'll be socialised with the other joeys around her age.
At the moment, Pixie is one of five joeys who were born this year, and in a couple of years, she will also join the park's growing breeding program.
Wild koala populations were devastated following the recent Black Summer Bushfires, and have been in sharp decline for decades.
Mr Faulkner, who is also the president of Aussie Ark, said Pixie's contribution to the breeding program would be enormous.
"If we don't start dramatic intervention now, koalas could be extinct in the wild in less than 30 years," he said.
"Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, we need as many programs like our koala breeding program as possible to save our Aussie wildlife.
"She's the future of her species."