An unassuming koala hospital on the NSW Mid North Coast has been inundated with donations for bushfire-affected koalas, amassing more than $1 million in three weeks.
Staff at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital have been caring for dozens of koalas injured in the state’s devastating bushfires, with an estimated 350 of the marsupials killed as a result.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares inland from the coast have been scorched including vital koala habitat in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve which surrounds the town.
A number of fires are still burning in the area including to the northwest of Port Macquarie.
The hospital started a GoFundMe page on October 31 to “Help thirsty koalas devastated by recent fires”, given over two thirds of the nearby Crestwood and Lake Cathie fire ground is prime koala habitat.
As of Friday afternoon, it had raised more than $1.19 million.
The page has been shared more than 73,000 times with over 26,700 individual donations.
“We are overwhelmed and humbled with gratitude for the support and care shown by people from all over the world for our efforts to care for koalas now and to try to ensure that we still have koalas for generations to come,” the hospital said in an update this morning.
“The initial target of $25,000 has well and truly been exceeded.”
WHERE THE MONEY WILL GO
The hospital is part of a not-for-profit organisation established in 1973 and operates with four paid staff and about 140 volunteers, according to its website.
It has a treatment room, eight intensive care units, six outdoor intensive care units and 33 rehabilitation yards and handles between 200 and 250 koalas each year.
The “generous donations” have resulted in an extension of its drinking stations project across a larger area of koala habitat in NSW and to benefit other wildlife in those regions.
A water-carrying vehicle will also be used to replenish the drinking stations.
Earlier this month, the hospital said financial donations were “the best thing you can do at the moment” because staff had run out of room to store donated supplies.
“It is much easier for us to use your donations to order and buy what we really need,” it said on Facebook.
The hospital also plans to establish a “Koala Ark” facility to allow the surviving koalas to be accommodated in a healthy habitat, and to aid plans for its wild koala breeding program.
“From the comments received, everyone wants to see the survival of this special animal,” it said.
“All at the Koala Hospital want to thank each and everyone of you who have donated.
“Your kind donations make a massive difference in helping us to continue to look after these amazing creatures.”
WHO THE HOSPITAL IS LOOKING AFTER
A total of 31 koalas are currently in the hospital after being brought in from several fire sites.
Footage of heroic grandmother Toni Doherty this week made headlines across the globe as she was filmed ripping the shirt off her back near Long Flat in NSW to save one of them.
Named “Ellenborough Lewis” after Toni’s grandchild, or Lewis for short, he is receiving around-the-clock care by long-term home care volunteer and koala hospital supervisor, Barb.
“Barb hand feeds Lewis a single leaf at a time, with feeding taking up to an hour a feed,” the hospital said in its update today.
“Lewis’s prognosis is guarded as he sustained significant burns however he is receiving the best possible care.
Heartbreaking video of injured koala
Heartbreaking video of koala injured in the bushfires being rescued.
Another koala was brought in from Pappinbarra, 50 kilometres away.
Peter and Paul are two of seven koalas rescued from the Lake Innes Nature Reserve and being cared for by volunteers.
“Paul was the first admitted with burnt feet and hands,” the hospital said.
“Peter … received burns and singeing to his body. His fur looks quite brown which is the effects of the radiant heat on his fur.
In an update today, the hospital said Peter is eating well and his burns are healing as expected.
“Baz” from The Ruins Way and “Kate” from Bellangry State Forest were also admitted.
“It’s early days yet for most of them,” the hospital said.
“We still have three months of summer to go yet before any rain of any value is predicted to fall.”
The cause has received celebrity endorsement, including from Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio and Bondi Vet Dr Chris Brown.
The fundraiser is believed to be one of the most successful Australian GoFundMe campaigns.
The MATW (Muslims Around The World) Africa Project with Ali Banat has raised close to $1.8 million since December 2015 and is still receiving daily donations.
But the koalas aren’t the only ones to lose their homes at the start of the bushfire season.
The latest update from the NSW Rural Fire Service yesterday noted more than 600 homes have been destroyed with 503 in the past fortnight alone.
The koala hospital has been contacted by news.com.au for further comment.