“Accidents happen, but it is what you do after them that matters.” – Christeen McLeod, Koala Care Facility Manager, Koalas in Care Inc. Local resident Gaby Klika recently had cause to contact not-for-profit organisation Koalas in Care Inc. when she struck a koala while driving on the Bucketts Way at night.
Koalas in Care exclusively care for sick, injured and orphaned koalas in our region, operating a Koala Care Facility in Taree.
Despite the late hour, Koalas in Care volunteers went out that same evening and searched the embankment and trees in the area described. After a 90 minute search, they were able to locate an adult male koala up in a tree looking a bit the worse-for-wear.
The injured koala, affectionately named ‘Goose’, stayed in care for sixteen days, being treated for shock and monitored in the event of a bruised lung … FOCUS caught up with Christeen McLeod, Koala Care Facility Manager, to find out more about the organisation’s important work.
Who is Koalas in Care?
It is a registered charity and licensed to operate by the Office of Environment and Heritage to rescue and care for koalas. Koalas in Care is independently operated by local volunteers, is based in Taree and became operational in July 2005. Our founding members, Paul and Christeen McLeod, have been working with koalas in the area since September 1993.
KIC has no paid employees, and the facility is not open to the general public. This allows the koalas to recover from their injuries or illness in a quiet and stress-free environment. We are a group of volunteers committed to the welfare and preservation of wild koalas.
Tell us about the actual work you do and who is involved?
Koalas in Care provide a 24 hour rescue service for sick/injured/orphaned koalas (our rescuers are ready to go at a moment’s notice), operate a koala care facility (which includes critical care, intensive care, nursery, outside holding units and outside holding yard) two shifts per day, collect fresh leaf four days per week, attend local events to educate the public about koalas, do school talks, tree farming (currently we have three), collect seeds and raise our own seedlings for planting, and fundraise.
What was involved when you recently provided care to ‘Goose’?
Goose was hit by a car during the night on the Bucketts Way. When contacted by the motorist, Koalas in Care immediately went to find him, guided by the landmarks given by the motorist. After searching for some time, and about to give up, we found him in a small tree. Our experienced rescuers were able to remove him from the tree and take him into care. He was treated for shock and attended to by Vet Renata and Vet Donald from Taree Veterinary Hospital. Goose had suffered abrasions and bruising on his legs and paws. He had a swollen lip. He also suffered a bruised lung, and a course of antibiotics and pain relief was prescribed. Goose responded well to treatment and after two weeks in care, was given the ‘all clear’ to be released. He was very lucky.
How many koalas are admitted into your care per annum, and do you have a number of permanent residents staying with you?
It varies, but up to 65 individuals per annum. We have two permanent care koalas, both female. ‘Boobook’ has been with us since 2002 and is now almost 12 years old. She has an injured hind leg and can’t be released. Tallow has been with us since 2008 and is now almost five years old. She suffered head injuries as a joey and was very sick. Both girls are lucky to have survived and are very valuable as ‘companion koalas’ to other koalas who need a friend, such as orphaned joeys being reared.
What tips can you give to people for driving on country roads at night where wildlife is often present?
Drive slowly and carefully in areas where koalas are known to exist and especially where there are ‘Koala Warning Signs’ (these areas are where we have had multiple koala deaths). Report any dead/injured koalas you may come across immediately to our 24 hour rescue hotline, so a volunteer can remove or assist the koala. If you hit a koala while driving, please stop if you can safely do so. Place a blanket, towel or coat over the koala and safely remove it from the road.
Contact our 24 hour rescue hotline immediately. Many koalas are hit again and again, because no one stopped. Do not leave the koala unattended or attempt to put it up a tree as while the koala may appear uninjured to you, it needs to be examined by our Vet and observed by an experienced carer. Native animals can disguise sickness and injuries well. Female koalas may well be carrying back or pouch joeys. Both can be thrown on impact and may survive, so an experienced carer should assess if the female koala is lactating and a search of the area undertaken. Likewise, if joeys are found with the dead mother, they should be kept with her and you should contact us for immediate help. This will lessen the stress of the joey.
Please be aware that koalas do bite and scratch and may lash out when injured or frightened. Remember, koalas are wild animals, even though you may think of them as ‘cute and cuddly’. Phone Koalas In Care, so an experienced koala handler can assist and we can then provide the koala with care and treatment that it may require.
How does Koalas in Care sustain itself?
Koalas in Care relies on the kind generosity of the public for donations/bequests and support, and our own fundraising to enable us to rehabilitate the koalas that are admitted for treatment. This helps ensure that they have the best chance of recovery and we can return as many as possible back to the wild. We cannot achieve this without your donations/bequests, so please make a donation or become a Supporting Member of Koalas In Care. All money raised stays in the area covered by the group to fund our work and provide vital medications for the koalas.
Thank you Christeen.
Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 65 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus