Our Koala Hospital in Lismore
Our fully accredited koala hospital admits around 350 koalas per year - more than any other wildlife facility in NSW. To assist our expert veterinary team to provide specialised care to koalas, the hospital is set up with state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment tools that include ultrasound, x-ray, blood and biological sample analysis machines, a blood bank, as well as anaesthetic, surgical, and pathology laboratory equipment.
Whether a koala has been hit by a car, is ill with disease, or is a joey who has lost its mum, our experienced koala veterinarians, skilled support staff and dedicated volunteer carers have the knowledge and tools to diagnose, treat, rehabilitate and release these koalas back to the wild where they belong.
Saving our endangered koalas, one patient at a time is a service we offer free to the community, but we cannot do it alone. While we are thankful to our sponsors such as IFAW and WWF who support the invaluable work we do at the Koala Hospital, we are mostly dependent on the public’s generosity for the ongoing operational and veterinary staffing costs.
KOALA CARE CENTRE
Where we house our koalas in the koala care centre is called a rehabilitation enclosure or run. We have 23 outdoor enclosures, two ICU cages and one ICU room. This means we have the ability to house 23 adult koalas, 4 to 6 joeys and up to four females in our permanent enclosure.
All enclosures are designed to provide koalas with everything they need including a natural and quiet environment with plenty of space and options (such as to exercise, sleep, enjoy the shade). They must also allow easy access for our team including vets and volunteers.
When koalas are not being treated in the koala hospital, they are recovering in our dedicated and custom-built Koala Care Centre.
Every single day, rain, hail or shine, our Koala Care volunteers provide supplements and treatments, replace leaf and clean the runs.
OUR leaf harvest and koala food tree PLANTATIONs
Our Leaf Harvest volunteers ensure our koalas get to enjoy their favorite fresh leaf, by collecting a diverse range of leaf from our seven koala food tree plantations or the properties of local landholders we partner with every single day.
Our Plantation Maintenance Team ensures our food tree plantations are maintained, and new trees are planted when required.
Koala joeys rely on the care of their mother from birth to about 18 months of age. Sometimes joeys are separated from their mothers by accident or disease and it is then up to us to raise and prepare them for life in the wild.
From the alert that a koala joey is in need all the way to successful wild release, Friends of the Koala provide the facilities and people to support this challenging process every step of the way.
How do we raise a koala?
Our 24/7 rescue hotline is often the first contact for koala joeys or their mothers requiring assistance and when the call comes in our dedicated rescue team is immediately alerted.
Volunteer rescuers who are ready to be deployed at any time of the day or night are quickly on the scene. The safely contained joey is then transported to our koala hospital where a veterinarian will look for signs of illness or injury and provide lifesaving first aid treatment.
At Home Care
Once the joey has been stabilised she is transferred to “homecare” where a trained volunteer carer can monitor her all the time. Young joeys will need to be given milk supplement feeds six or eight times a day, even in the middle of the night!
Joeys can spend months in home care and during this time, regular checkups are scheduled with the vet. If the joey is healthy and going well, she will join Koala Kindy in the FOK Care Centre at about 10 to 12 months of age or at a weight of about 1.5 kilograms.
At Koala Kindy
Koala Kindy is for koala joeys to spend time learning to climb, feed themselves leaf and interact with other koalas.
Trained volunteer koala carers will continue to give them supplement milk feeds once or twice a day, administer any medications they require, visually assess their health every day and weigh them regularly.
A joey can spend as long as six to twelve months in Koala Kindy before they are strong enough to take the next step.
Koala Kindy Plantation
When the FOK vet team decide that the joey may be ready for release, she is given a final thorough vet check under anaesthesia and sent for chlamydia vaccinations. She will then be “buddied up” with a koala friend of a similar age and they are both sent off to Koala Kindy Plantation.
Here they spend a couple of weeks trying out a range of small food trees enclosed by a fence to protect them from predators and misadventure.
A volunteer will check the joeys each day and report back to veterinary staff at FOK Hospital.
If they pass Koala Kindy Plantation, the buddied joeys are then moved to what we call a “soft release” location where they will eventually be released to the wild.
This setup consists of a much larger enclosed tree where the joeys are expected to demonstrate their ability to climb, jump and feed like a big koala while still being closely monitored.
Release Into The Wild
Once the vet team are happy the hand reared joey has passed all of their big girl/boy koala tests, the enclosure door is opened and they are free to live a long, healthy, wild life.
Now you can see, it’s quite a mission to support a joey through this journey and a successful wild release is cause for much celebration for all the staff and volunteers at FOK.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
SUCCESS STORIES/CASE STUDIES
Flood survivor an indicator of great outcomes for hand reared joeys.
Gullver was admitted to FOK in March, 2022 during the catastrophic northern rivers flooding. He was still a back young joey, about 12 months old and had become separated from his mother who could not be found.
After a short stint in the koala hospital where he was treated for shock and dehydration, Gulliver was raised by volunteers in the care centre. He spent 6 months in Koala Kindy before being released in Caniaba.
Recently, in May 2023, Gulliver has been sighted again in his travels and is now a mature male. He appears to be healthy and if the large active scent gland is anything to go by, he is probably the alpha male in his territory – Go Gulliver.
Other recently sighted hand reared joeys that are thriving in the wild include: Summer, Keogh, Kookie, Rafa and Pala.
Best outcomes for released koalas happen through FOK’s successful community engagement.
Newton lives in the Channon and is an old man at 11 years of age. He came to us in February 2022 with a severe infection in both years.
At the time, there had been a lot of rain over the summer and the insects were out in full force. We saw quite a few koalas over this period with very nasty ear infections, many of whom did not survive.
Newton spent about 6 weeks in the FOK care centre, the veterinary staff treated his ear infections with topical and systemic medications. He had to have multiple procedures under anaesthetic and received plenty of TLC and supplements from volunteers in the care centre.
Finally, he could be released back home, only to return 3 months later when he was hit by a car! Luckily, he only suffered mild injuries from the car hit, but it was also evident that his ear infection was starting up again as the rainy weather continued that year.
When Newton was released again, caring and dedicated members of the Channon community kept a close eye on him and continue to monitor him to this day. He can be recognised easily as the ear infection damaged the nerves to his outer ear, which now hangs a bit droopy compared to a normal koala.
In May 2023, we received a photo of him looking content and healthy.
Koala Kospital in Numbers
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT US
"Friends of the Koala in Lismore is doing a herculean job caring for sick and injured koalas."
"With koalas recently being listed as Endangered under our national environment law, the life of every individual koala matters. To see them here in care at Friends of the Koala, happy and healthy, really does give me hope for a better future for them."
- Dr Prishani Vengetas, WWF-Australia
"Staff here are very passionate and knowledgeable about the work they do. The community is very lucky to have such amazing people taking care of our koalas and releasing them back home. It would have been difficult and heartbreaking to navigate through the fires & the floods. Thank you for all the work you do!
And for visitors - don’t forget to donate!"
"We strive to provide gold standard veterinary care for every koala that needs our help. Our purpose-built hospital is designed to allow us to provide the best care possible"
- Superintendent Veterinarian Dr Jackie Reed