When and why was Port Stephens Koala Hospital first established?
The mission of Port Stephens Koala Hospital is to save the endangered koalas of Port Stephens, which includes rescue, treatment, rehabilitation and, when possible, release. The PSKH koalas are wild koalas and so are handled as little as possible to minimise human contact and facilitate an easier release to thrive in their natural habitat.
In 1987, due to the loss of habitat as a result of continued development across Port Stephens, a small group of Anna Bay residents formed the Hunter Koala Preservation Society with the goal of saving injured koalas by rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing them back to the wild.
The Hunter Koala Preservation Society established a comprehensive data base in 1995 to monitor and record sick and injured koalas in care as well as their location when released back to the wild. This data base is still being utilised today and provides critical data to various agencies and organisations.
In 2016 the Hunter Koala Preservation Society was re-named Port Stephens Koalas. With this new name came the opportunity to be granted Deductible Gift Recipient status (i.e. donations over $2 are tax deductible) and thus made it easier to fundraise in support of the ongoing work of protecting the Port Stephens Koalas.
In 2020 Port Stephens Koalas was renamed Port Stephens Koala Hospital and the current facility opened in August of that year. Whilst the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary and Port Stephens Koala Hospital are located on the same site, the two are totally different organisations with the Hospital being a not-for-profit organisation registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. The Hospital holds all the necessary licences to rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release koalas, and other wildlife, and to display koalas that cannot be returned to the wild.
How many koalas (and other native species) do you look after and are there any characters that stand out?
The numbers of koalas, and other wildlife, onsite at any time can vary depending on rescues, releases and, unfortunately, deaths. PSKH currently has 11 koalas on display in the Sanctuary, these are koalas that would not be able to survive should they be released in the wild.
In our rehabilitation yards, we currently have 13 koalas undergoing treatment and we have also treated wombats, possums, owls, lizards, a wallaby (joey), and birds.
Of course, as with many organisations, there are always noteworthy characters that stand out. A few worth mentioning include:
• Ronald the Wombat “the ankle biter” – now terrorising Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue
• Ookie the baby kookaburra – adopted by our local kookaburra flock and now keeping an eye on us
• Lemon Tree Peter the koala joey – surviving against the odds of diabetes and pneumonia
• Murphy one of our older koala ladies – who does not need to be lifted into a basket to be moved, but simply steps in when the basket is brought to her
What promotions do you use to raise funds?
As PSKH is not a government funded organisation, we are reliant on sourcing funds through periodic grants, sponsorship, donations, adoptions and various fundraising ventures. We are fortunate to receive regular support from the Port Stephens Council Koala Sanctuary as well as some generous benefactors.
What Port Stephens businesses are your supporters and how can they get involved?
We receive support from many Port Stephens businesses and this support has many forms eg direct donation of funds, donation of goods, discounted purchasing, etc. We also have established relationships with various organisations whereby we support each other eg the upcoming anticipated bush fire season is a common platform cooperation between the Hospital and the Rural Fire Service.
Our ’Cooking for Koalas’ campaign, during September, hopes to get food and drink venues on board so they too can help draw attention to the importance of saving koalas. It’s easy to become involved – just email email@example.com.
Tell us about Save the Koala month?
Whilst 29 September each year is the Save the Koala Day, the entire month of September is the annual worldwide event dedicated to raising awareness about koalas and their natural habitat, and also raise awareness to prevent them from becoming extinct.
In February 2022 koalas in NSW, Qld and ACT were listed as an ‘endangered species’. The numbers are so low that these animals have only two steps (‘critically endangered’ and ‘extinct’) before they will no longer be around to appreciate.
As one of Australia’s most iconic and beloved animals, koalas face ongoing threats from habitat loss, disease, car strikes, dog attacks and human activity – just to name a few. Through its commitment to caring for koalas and giving them every opportunity to be returned to the wild, Port Stephens Koala Hospital hopes to highlight their plight not only during Save the Koala month but the entire year.