A koala hospital? It’s part of an Australian volunteer koala care project to save Australia’s favourite marsupial.
Koala Care in Sydney Australia
There is no dedicated Koala Hospital in Sydney itself.
The Koala Infectious Disease Research Group in the University of Sydney works on the ‘big picture’.
It researches diseases such as Chlamydia to try to assist the long-term survival of the Australian koala.
The University of Western Sydney carries out research on the marsupials who live and roam around the Georges River in Sydney’s south.
It tags them and follows their tracks to better understand their movements and social structure. It also studies the increased dangers facing koalas as human habitation closes in on their home ranges. It closely monitors a group in Campbelltown, one of Sydney’s outer western suburbs.
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo focuses on conservation and biodiversity issues generally, rather than on issues specifically affecting the koala.
The only hospital in Australia dedicated wholly to the little marsupial is the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, a coastal city some 4 hours north of Sydney. Volunteers work with individual koalas who’ve been rescued and brought in for treatment and rehabilitation.
Here, in 1973, the Koala Preservation Society was formed to save the lives of diseased and injured koalas.
The first hospital, with two recovery yards, was built by the society in 1975. The current hospital,with 10 outside yards and 8 intensive care units, was built in 1986.
Still today, except for the supervisor and leaf collectors, everything is done by volunteers. (Volunteering is permitted under Australian tourist visas).
The hospital cares for around 250 koalas each year.
Koala Pictures & Stories From the Hospital
This beautiful female, Hastings Grace, and her joey, Noah, were captured from a suburban backyard where two malamute dogs had previously killed a young male koala.
Dogs are a huge problem for urban wildlife.
Koalas are territorial and are locked into a home range that has to have enough trees to sustain them. This is difficult in urban areas where trees are continually removed for housing development.
Koalas often have to travel great distances and scale obstacles such as huge fences, carparks, buildings and busy roads to get from A to B. If this means they have to cross through a backyard they will do it.
That’s when they meet the family dog.
Koalas have not evolved mechanisms to protect themselves properly against dogs and usually end up second best.
The Koala Hospital tries to educate home owners to be responsible pet owners, to erect timber runners from trees to fences, to lock dogs up at night and to pick a breed that is less likely to attack wildlife. Staffordshire bull terriers, cattle dogs and alsatians are high on the list of offenders.
Hastings Grace and Noah spent some eight months at the hospital in a free living yard to allow Noah to grow out to weaning and release size.
Hastings Grace was released into the grounds of the Macquarie Nature Reserve next to the hospital (well away from the malamutes). Along with four other young handraised koalas, Noah was released into a national park. This park had excellent unoccupied habitat well suited to a new colony. A good outcome for both mother and joey.
More Stories & Pictures of Koalas
When visitors come to the hospital they are likely to see, in the outside rehabilitation yards, cute koalas curled up asleep.
All of the admitted animals, no matter where they come from in NSW, are given a two part name for the hospital’s data base. The first part of the name identifies where it came from and the second part is usually the name of the person who called in or something interesting to do with the koala itself.
This is Seaview Farida.
She was found in a house in Seaview Avenue and “Farida” is the name of a girl who lived there.
Having the split name makes it easier to look at what sort of issues occur in each area. There may be a high incidence of chlamydial infection in a location, or a high incidence of dog attacks or hits by cars etc.
There have certainly been some interesting names over the years:
Nulla Big Ears – a young male with giant ears from Nulla Crescent.
Oxley Twinkles – a beautiful joey that was very bright and alert from the Oxley highway
Blair Street Unlucky – didn’t make it after being hit by a car
Grandview Tri-digit – from Grandview Avenue, he lost two digits courtesy of a dog attack.
Aussie Mick – the famous white koala who was returned to his home range which remains a secret (known to only three people) hence the first part of his name is very broad.
Where’s Barry??? Share Your Koala Photos
When visitors come to the hospital any day at 1500 (3 pm) they can take part in a guided tour. During this tour they will see some of the animals being fed a rehydration formula.
The photo shows Westhaven Barry being fed. He is a favourite with the volunteers at the hospital as he is such a character. He is a very grumpy, naughty and hilarious koala. He is also the star of “where’s Barry??”.
As Westhaven Barry is a permanent resident, and a bit of a naughty one who gets out of his yard a lot, the hospital has made small koala stuffed animals called Barry for visitors to buy and take around the world with them.
Photograph your Barry up to his old escapist tricks and email your explorer/hedonist/daredevil Barry koala photos to the hospital.
Every three months the hospital rewards the best Barry koala photo.
You can buy your “Where’s Barry” stuffed koala bears online or through the hospital shop.
Barry has been to Lord Howe Island, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Oklahoma and on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Who knows where he’ll go next?
Koala Bear Gifts
Roto Mikki, a very pretty young koala care female, has the unusual one blue and one brown eye that is occasionally seen at the hospital.
She is one of the many patients from the Koala Hospital who can be “adopted” (sponsored) in its Adopt a Wild Koala Scheme.
Westhaven Barry is also available for adoption under this scheme.
The Adopt a Wild Koala programme is an environmentally friendly gift and can be renewed annually. For AU$50 per year adopters receive a photograph and story of their adoptee, plus a booklet of koala information, stickers and a copy of the Gum Tips magazine. There’s also an eAdopt certificate for AUD$35 per year.
All money raised goes to the treatment and care of the 250 koala patients who are admitted to the hospital every year.
The hospital receives no government funding at all. The financial support from this scheme helps it research koala diseases and fund the medical koala care procedures its patients need.
Baby Koala Rescue
Here is a young joey that was found in very poor condition in a house. Nobody knows how the joey got there, but it was probably abandoned by its mother.
The joey is in the process of being checked out for ability to move properly on all four limbs.
Once it’s given the all-clear it will be taken into home care to be lovingly fed and cared for 24 hours a day until it is at a weaned age/weight.
The joey will then come back into the hospital for pre-release dehumanising, learning to climb trees.
It will be released in a small group, along with other orphaned joeys, with a view to starting off a new koala population out of town.
This process seems to work really well.
Intensive Care Koala Bear Photo
This is Livingston Bendigo having ultrasound to look for possible internal damage as a result of chlamydia.
At the same time one of the hospital staff is being instructed in correct koala care anaesthesia procedures (taking heart/respiration rates etc).
The hospital is constantly updating and teaching its volunteer staff.
Livingston Bendigo first came into the hospital after being hit by a car on Livingston Road. He was rescued and brought to the hospital by the manager of the local branch of the Bendigo Bank, hence his name.
As with all animals treated at the hospital, Livingston Bendigo was eartagged and microchipped once he responded to treatment and was able to be released.
So, a couple of years later, when an animal was subsequently spotted not looking very well and brought in for treatment, the hospital could identify him as one that had been in previously and could check his history.
Volunteer Work in Koala Care
If you’re interested in volunteering at the Koala hospital here’s volunteer work information and instructions on how to apply online, or download an application form to help with koala care in Australia.