Koala Rescue
(02) 6622 1233

Northern Rivers
Koala Hospital

At our Lismore based Koala Hospital we treat and rehabilitate koalas from across the entire Northern Rivers region with an unwavering commitment to the preservation of the species.

Lismore Koala Hospital

Koala Hospital

At our Lismore based Koala Hospital, we treat and rehabilitate koalas with an unwavering commitment to the preservation of this magnificent species.

Our Koala Hospital 

The fully accredited Northern Rivers Koala Hospital admits at least 350 koalas per year - more than any other wildlife facility in New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria. To assist our expert veterinary team to provide specialised care to koalas, the Koala Hospital is set up with state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment tools including 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 free service to the community but it does cost money and we cannot do it without support. While we are thankful to sponsors like IFAW and WWF for supporting our invaluable work at the Northern Rivers Koala Hospital, we are to a large extent dependent on the public’s generosity for the ongoing operational and staffing costs.

Koala Care Centre

In order to treat our little patients successfully, it requires a holistic approach to treatment and care. Our Koala Care Centre combined with the onsite Koala Hospital offers excellent opportunities for speedy, quality treatment and care. In fact, together, it has increased survival rates of koalas by 40%.

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.


Koala Hero

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 Koala provide the facilities and people to support this challenging process every step of the way.

The lifecycle of a joey’s rescue and release

It’s quite a mission to support a joey through this journey and a successful wild release is cause for much celebration for everyone at Friends of the Koala.



Our 24/7 rescue hotline is often the first contact for anybody who spots a koala joey or mother with joey requiring assistance. When the call comes in, our dedicated rescue team will be alerted.

Volunteer rescuers are ready at short notice day or night and are quickly on the scene.

Depending on what the rescuers find, the safely contained joey (and its mum, if present) are then transported to our Koala Hospital where a veterinary surgeon will look for signs of illness or injury and provide lifesaving first aid treatment.

Koala Rescue

Image 1: A koala in the wild and insert is what some of our rescue set ups could look like.


Image 2: Frankie who fell from a tree being examined by our Superintendent Vet Dr. Jackie Reed.


Home care

Once the joey has been stabilised they are transferred to “home care” with a trained volunteer joey carer to monitor them. Young joeys will need to be given milk and supplement feeds 6 to 8 times a day, even in the middle of the night!

Joeys can spend months in home care and during this time, regular check-ups are scheduled with the vet team. If the joey is healthy and going well, they will join Koala Kindy in our Koala Care Centre at about 10 to 12 months of age and a weight of about 1.5 kilograms.

Baby Magnus

Image 3: Magnus was a pouch young joey when he was abandoned by his mum - we think he could have been a twin.


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 once or twice a day, administer any medications they require, visually assess their health 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.


Image 4, 5 and 6: Our joeys in kindy are fed supplement milk and fresh leaf.



When the Friends of the Koala veterinary team decide that the joey may be ready for release, they are given a final thorough veterinary check under anaesthesia and receive chlamydia vaccination. They will then often 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 our Koala Hospital.


Image 7: A koala in the Koala Kindy Plantation.


Soft Release

If they pass their health assessment at Koala Kindy Plantation, the buddied joeys are moved to what we call a “soft release” location where they will eventually be released to the wild.

This set-up consists of a much larger enclosed area of trees where the joeys are expected to demonstrate their ability to climb, jump and feed like a big koala.
At the same time they are still being closely monitored.


Image 8: A koala enjoying the highlife in soft release.


Wild Release

Once the vet team are happy the hand reared joey has passed all of their big girl/boy koala tests, they are released and free to live what is hopefully a long, healthy, wild life.

Wild Release

Image 9: A koala being released back to the wild and insert a koala enjoying cooling down against the trunk of a tree.

happy ending, wild release

Leaf harvest & koala food tree plantations

Running a Koala Hospital is unlike running any other wildlife hospital in Australia. There are very few, if any, highly specialised eaters as iconic and well known around the world as the koala.

Koalas are folivores (leaf eaters) who eat about 500 to 800g of eucalyptus leaves in a single day, which means, in order to feed them we need to have access to plenty of their favorite fresh leaves. In come our Leaf Harvesters and koala food 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.


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.

Gulliver the koala

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.

Every koala rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild is crucial for the conservation of the species.

Koala Hospital in Numbers

Veterinary Care for Koalas
Koalas Vaccinated
Koalas Released
Veterinary Staff Members


Koala Hospital Articles

Kula is off to koala plantation

January 2023 at Koala Kindy

It is a brand new year at FOK and our koala babies are growing up! This month we have quite a few changes with our joeys and can’t wait to share this update with you and photos of their cheeky...
Koala kindy and Kookie enjoying the run

December at Koala Kindy

All is well in our Koala Kindy - very busy and full of girly energy! Grouped together (for now, things change very quickly as these little ones grow up and go on to the next stage of their development), we...
Koala joeys in kindy

November at Koala Kindy

We currently have 7 joeys in our koala kindy – 5 girls and 2 boys – up until recently we had a larger number of boys so the girls seem to be taking over! Our newest joey, Seeana, arrived on...