Eye contact with an incredibly cute Koala

Eye contact with an incredibly cute Koala

We have just visited the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie.  I didn’t want to visit the hospital because I thought it would be far too sad an experience.  However, the car rental man at the airport pretty much insisted we visit saying it was wonderful, so we took him at his word & are so glad that we did.

My knowledge of koalas was mostly about their continuing loss of habitat & the risk of extinction in the wild if we do not save their habitat.  I had only seen one wild koala before & this was a male walking across a field bellowing for a girlfriend at Healesville in Victoria.

The Koala Hospital is within city limits in the Macquarie Nature Reserve next to historic Roto House, a rare late Victorian country house built for surveyor John Flynn & his family in 1891.  The NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service manages the house & nature reserve.

The first thing that hits you when you drive in to the reserve is the truly enormous trees on the property. There are all kinds of Eucalypts, some Bunya pines & at least one Fig tree, plus a forest as a backdrop.  Next to the house is an almost hollow Mulberry bush that is still very much alive.  I’d guess it was planted in 1891 or shortly after.  For more information see – http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/macquarie-nature-reserve

The shop

The shop

The Koala Hospital has been in Macquarie Nature Reserve since 1975.  According to the National Parks website Macquarie Nature Reserve is a major habitat corridor for the koala & home to a number of threatened species – “the barred cuckoo-shrike, square-tailed kite, grey-headed flying fox & glossy black cockatoo.”  It’s no wonder looking at the reserve, as to me, it looks like heaven for wildlife.

As we walked towards the Koala Hospital a small sign beneath a massive tree read, ‘Koala up tree.’  This was my first surprise. A tiny brown circle was visible way up in the furthest branches. I had no idea koalas were so small.  I wondered whether the similar shape I’d seen in the grove of Eucalypts in the airport was a koala or a bird’s nest – they look so similar.  A staff member told us that people generally know that a koala is above by their scat on the ground.

We went to the rehabilitation area before we went to the low-key shop & information area.  A very friendly & knowledgeable volunteer explained how the hospital works & introduced us to a number of the koalas.  Some were permanent residents because of such diverse problems as scoliosis (curvature of the spine), amputation of a leg & the loss of one eye due to an accident & blindness from Chlamydia.

Other koalas come in for a variety of reasons, get patched up, given time to recover & heal, then are released back to the area they came from.  Koalas at the hospital are given names that include the area from where they came & the first name of the person who brought them in. eg. Lighthouse Harry.

The koalas outside live in fairly large pens with what looks like a picnic kiosk in the centre.  They all have trees, though some have their trunks wrapped at the bottom to prevent the koalas from climbing.  You can’t have a sick koala high up in a tree when you need to give him medication.

The kiosks have a roof & there is a range of very big branches that offer perches for the koalas to sit.  Some perches are set up to offer full support to the koala, while others look more like a fork of a tree.  Huge bundles of four types of gum leaves are attached to the branches around the kiosk offering meals on demand without the koala needing to struggle to access food.

This is a lovely thing to do for visitors.

This is a lovely thing to do for visitors.

While we were there the one-eyed, one-legged koala, a permanent resident who gets room service, decided to climb a very high tree, then clamber along a long side branch until he reached the leaves that were growing on this branch.  Then he sat down & started to eat.  They can move fast if they want to.

Was it sad visiting the Koala Hospital?  Not at all.  Their living conditions mimic the wild. They are safe. They have lots of food & a range of climbing conditions. Apart from the fences & man-made structures, the surrounds are essentially the bush, so they can see, hear & smell everything that they are used to.  The hospital was nothing at all like I had imagined.  It is a terrific place for children to visit to learn about koalas.

We spoke to two volunteers. They absolutely loved their work & of course the koalas.   Incidentally, I met another volunteer of the Koala Hospital in the Fair Trade shop in town who also loved her volunteer work with the koalas.

As with any animal hospital & rehabilitation centre, the Koala Hospital exists on very little money & with the assistance of volunteer workers, so you can help by becoming a member or simply making a monetary donation.  They are a registered charity, so donations within Australia are tax deductable.  More information is available here – http://www.koalahospital.org.au/membership

They also have an ‘Adopt a Wild Koala’ program – Your adoption helps with the rescue & treatment of sick & injured koalas & release back to home range if possible; also the preservation & expansion of habitat, collection of information for research relating to habitat, disease, nutrition & habits of wild koalas & to provide educational material, to increase public awareness of all aspects of the koala.”

One other campaign by the Koala Hospital that I love is planting koala food trees – the more common being Tallowood, Swamp Mahogany & Forest Red Gum.

Each tree costs only $15 to buy & plant in the ground.  !!!

The trees grow big in Port Macquarie, so $15 will pay for a tree that will not only increase much-needed habitat for koalas who are being hounded out of existence, but also provide habitat & food for all sorts of other wildlife from insects to birds.   I’ve not seen such value for money before.  http://www.koalahospital.org.au/act-now/plant-a-koala-food-tree

If you get the chance to visit this place, do so.  You will not be disappointed.  The koalas are easily visible in their pens. The environment is lovely.  The staff are friendly. The atmosphere is great.  The only thing the hospital asks of visitors is not to make noise or use a camera flash when taking photographs.  Entry is free.

Off along a side branch to get to the tastiest gum leaves right at the end.

Off along a side branch to get to the tastiest gum leaves right at the end.

A close-up of the Koala in the above photo. This is the one-legged, one-eyed Koala who was climbing incredibly well.

A close-up of the above photo. This is the one-legged, one-eyed Koala who was climbing incredibly well.

I was impressed with the living conditions for the Koalas.

I was impressed with the living conditions for the Koalas.

 

 

 

 

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