Overwhelming support for the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie following catastrophic bushfires
With news of Australia’s devastating bushfires spreading around the world, donations are pouring in for the RFS, WIRES, the Red Cross and the Smith Family. But one local fundraising effort has exceeded expectations many times over and the pledges just keep coming.
On October 31st last year, the Koala Hospital set up a Go Fund Me page with the aim of raising $25,000 for “thirsty koalas devastated by recent fires”. Now, more than seven million dollars has been donated and that figure is rising every hour.
The groundswell of support for this local organisation is nothing short of staggering. First established in 1973, the Koala Hospital is set in the grounds of the Macquarie Nature Reserve and is open to visitors 364 days a year.
An injured koala recovering at the hospital. Image courtesy of Greater Port Macquarie Tourism
It’s the world’s first rehabilitation facility dedicated solely to the care and conservation of wild koalas. It is run by a small team of paid employees and a large contingent of passionate volunteers.
Without government funding, the Koala Hospital relies on donations and fundraising activities to meet its annual operating costs of $700,000. The team cares for ill and injured koalas and has a 24-hour rescue hotline. It also offers people the opportunity to financially ‘adopt’ a koala and receive updates on its care and rehabilitation.
The Koala Hospital’s initial Go Fund Me goal was to raise enough for the distribution of 12 automatic drinking stations to sections of New South Wales decimated by fires. That number has now increased to 100 and the drinking stations are being shared with other wildlife organisations such as Friends of the Koala. A water carrying vehicle (with fire-fighting capabilities) will also be purchased so the drinking stations can be refilled as needed.
The Koala Hospital has expressed gratitude for the overwhelming kindness, good wishes and support of donors. It has moved to assure donors that their generous contributions are being put to good use. After being inundated with supplies to treat burnt koalas, the Hospital is sending packages to the south coast of New South Wales to assist wildlife carers and veterinarians. Clinical Director Cheyne Flanagan says 74 koalas are currently being treated at the Port Macquarie Hospital, with more due to arrive in the coming days.
Lake Innes Nature Reserve Peter (l) and Nabiac Austin (r) are both on the road to recovery after being injured in the bushfires
Encouragingly, some of the funds raised through the campaign will be directed to Koala Ark, a safe haven for koalas being established close to our region. Koala Ark will be the world’s first and largest wild koala sanctuary. Earmarked for a parcel of land at Barrington Tops, the facility will allow koalas to be accommodated in a healthy habitat area. It is hoped the koalas will breed and a new population will be established for return to the wild.
In an interview with Mamamia, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s president Sue Ashton explained just how vulnerable the animals are in the event of a bushfire. While kangaroos are able to quickly hop away and get ahead of the fire front, Sue says koalas instinctively climb to the top of their trees. This position offers no protection and means the animals are trapped as flames approach.
For these wild koalas, a new environment such as that of the hospital can be overwhelming. Images courtesy of Koala Hospital
The World Wildlife Fund states that more than 480 million animals have been killed in the bushfires since September 2019. The WWF is concerned that the catastrophic fires are worsening the current “extinction crisis”. Its website highlights the Koala Triangle – from Noosa in Queensland to southwest Sydney and Gunnedah in the west of New South Wales – and expresses fears that in this region, the species could be extinct in as little as 30 years.
The Koala Hospital Facebook page has up-to-date info, photos and video on the recovery of the koalas impacted by fires.
Donations to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital can be made here.