Koalas in Care Inc.

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Koalas in Care Inc is an independently operated not for profit organisation based in Taree and was founded by Paul and Christeen McLeod. The organisation is run by volunteers … We spoke recently to Christeen about the amazing work that Koalas in Care provides to the sick and injured koala population in the region. 

Hi Christeen. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the history of Koalas in Care Inc?  

Koalas in Care was established and began operation on 1st July 2005. Prior to this date, Paul and I were working with koalas in the area from September 1993. Koalas in Care is based in Taree and covers the area from Johns River in the north, to Bulahdelah in the south, and from the coast to Gloucester (roughly 873,000 hectares). Koalas in Care is run by a management team. Our purpose-built koala facility is not opened to the public. We have a holding capacity of about 20 koalas.  We are licensed to operate by the Office of Environment and Heritage.

When did you first develop an interest in working with koalas, and how did your journey unfold?

We always had an interest in koalas, but initially we got involved when we heard a radio interview asking for rescuers to be trained in the Taree area in 1993. We underwent the training through the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie and commenced doing rescues for sick and injured koalas. 

Over the years we took on more and eventually built our first koala holding unit, so we could house a koala if necessary.  Home caring koalas soon followed, and then another unit was built. 

Today, our facility has two humidicrib units; two nursery units, four critical care units, three intensive care units, seven general purpose units and an outside enclosure. We can care for all areas in koala care, from pouch joeys through to aged koalas. 

In 2018 we undertook major renovation of our facility, with a new intensive care area, a new treatment room/office and a new roof on the enclosure.   

For over 20 years, Donald Hood, Taree Veterinary Hospital Vet and Patron of Koalas in Care, has overseen the care and treatment of koalas in our facility.

Our team of volunteers consists of 15 and includes the koala facility team, that assists daily in cleaning, treatments and feeding; leaf collecting, which is undertaken every second day to provide leaf for the koala patients; soiled leaf must be taken to the waste depot on a weekly basis; rescues are done at all hours of the day/night by the rescue team; and many general jobs are done by all.

What is it that you love most about the work you are doing with koalas?

Koalas are a very specialised species to care for, and it is rewarding to have worked with them over 25 years and to be able to use that experience to help every one of them that comes to our facility. Each one can teach you something – you never stop learning. 

While we do have a good deal of success with our patients, sadly, we can’t win them all. Koala care is extremely hard work, and we volunteer our time every day to care for our koala population.  

What situations do you find that you’re dealing with a lot?

Motor vehicles hits – these can be severe, with horrendous injuries to koalas. Motorists don’t seem to want to take the time to stop and get help for the injured koala. Usually it is another motorist who comes along and finds the koala injured on the road.

Dog attacks – these can be fatal or if the koalas survive, they can be many months in care recovering.  

Disease such as Chlamydia – we frequently treat wet bottom and conjunctivitis in koalas.  These koalas require months of treatment in hope of a recovery and release back to the wild.

How is an organisation like Koalas in Care funded?

Koalas in Care Inc relies on public donations to fund the work we do in providing the community with a 24 hour koala rescue service, veterinary treatment, medications, and all aspects of our work. We are all volunteers.

Are there any key messages you would like to tell our readers?

Please report sick/injured/orphaned koalas to Koalas in Care by phoning our 24 hour Koala Rescue Service on 0439 406 770. If you hit a koala on the road, if your dog attacks a koala, if you see a koala that may be sick or injured, or if you find a koala joey without a female … report it immediately. People seem to wait days before sick koalas or small koalas are reported, and this means that it is sometimes too late for us to save them. Just phone Koalas in Care and speak to our very experienced rescue team.

Additional thoughts?

Koalas in Care collects eucalyptus seed in the local area, which is propagated and planted into high koala usage areas to increase habitat for koalas. This also provides leaf collecting areas for our facility. This has been undertaken in conjunction with local landowners, Council, and Conservation Volunteers Australia. Koalas in Care has three established tree farms, with additional ones planned for the future. 

How can our readers find out more about Koalas in Care?

Visit our website – koalasincare.org.au – or find us on Facebook – Koalas in Care Inc.

Thanks Christeen.

Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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